It’s now official that both the ALP and the Liberal parties, state and federal are actively supporting the criminal destruction of the Australian environment in defiance of fundamental indigenous and community rights. South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has spoken out in support of the communities seeking to halt the dangerous Leigh Creek Energy Projects Underground Coal Gasification Project in the Northern Flinders Ranges.
Oddly, Mining and Energy Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan approved the trial UCG operation despite overwhelming evidence of the dangers and the unsavoury connections to the failed Linc Energy UCG operation causing the largest disaster in Queenslands history.
Sarah Hason-Young places the evidence on the record while Australian mainstream parties fail to act :
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (13:05):
The South Australian government has served a third and final activity notification to Leigh Creek Energy, giving them the green light to go ahead with a trial of what they call ‘in-situ gasification’, which others may understand as underground coal gasification or UCG. If this technology sounds familiar, it should; it was banned just over 12 months ago in Queensland by the state government after a disastrous trial in Chinchilla by Link Energy. The company was found guilty of five counts of breaching environmental laws, specifically of polluting a widespread area of soil, water, air and even up to six metres underground with fugitive gases, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulphide. Chinchilla in the Western Downs is an important agricultural area and part of the electorate of Monaro, represented by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.
Five of Link Energy’s executive directors are standing trial for failing to ensure compliance. However, notably absent from this list of directors is Link Energy’s former general manager of investor relations, Justin Peters. After the spectacular and disastrous failure of Link Energy in Chinchilla, Mr Peters became the executive chairman of Marathon Resources, now known as Leigh Creek Energy. South Australians will remember Marathon Resources for their famed dumping of radioactive waste in Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary in 2008.
After the spectacular and disastrous failure of Link Energy in Queensland and the terrible track record of Marathon Resources in Arkaroola, how on earth has Leigh Creek Energy now been given the green light in South Australia by the Liberal state government? How can there be so much crossover between these companies and no role for the corporate regulator? Leigh Creek is Marathon Resources—it is simply another name. While five of the directors of Link face court, the head of investor relations from the very same company that is now both bankrupt and being successfully prosecuted is trying to deploy the very same technology in South Australia.
The question is not just why the Liberal state government has given approvals for this project but where on earth is ASIC? What is the point of having a corporate regulator if it can’t stop the banks from ripping people off and can’t stop these kinds of cowboys, companies and directors with a legacy of misdeeds from continuing their bad projects, putting communities and the environment at risk?
Underground coal gasification poses grave risks of groundwater and soil contamination, not to mention the significant harm it can do as the particular noxious gases released by UCG contribute even more to accelerating climate change. Groundwater experts are very concerned about the impact of this project in South Australia. Groundwater experts from RMIT have raised serious concerns about UCG generally and about the specific application of it in Leigh Creek after evaluating the company’s environmental impact report, but the South Australian government has still given it the green light.
If these concerns weren’t troubling enough, the recent approval has completely flouted the will of the traditional owners, the Adnyamathanha people. They’ve been in court this week fighting for an injunction against Leigh Creek Energy. The original Leigh Creek mine site was developed right on top of a sacred cultural site and its closure heralded at the time a period of healing that has now been abruptly disrupted. Despite these concerns and the obvious danger of the technology, the South Australian government has seen fit to give approval to this ghastly project by giving a healthy bump to Leigh Creek Energy’s share price. This company has been advertising in various newspapers how much it will invest in this project in South Australia. Why are the South Australian people being put at risk by this company and by their state government? Why have we learned nothing from the disaster in Queensland? Why are we risking our great natural resources for a failed experimental technology that we know is dangerous, all for a company that has already been found to have people at its helm who have been found to be corrupt?
The answer to the questions appears to be the usual one: the revolving door between politics and fossil fuels. Who is doing the bidding for Leigh Creek Energy with our state government? It is none other than Iain Evans, the former SA Liberal Party leader. He is listed as a lobbyist, after the recent change of government, with his sole client being Leigh Creek Energy. Before we get ahead of ourselves and just blame the Liberal side of politics, this murky back-room wheeling and dealing is not the sole preserve of the Liberal Party. Leigh Creek Energy was lobbied on behalf of by South Australian former Labor senator Chris Schacht before the change of government in South Australia earlier this year. Former senator, now lobbyist Schacht, is also a shareholder and was a director of Marathon Resources, the same company that is pushing this dangerous and lethal toxic technology in South Australia. This connection between fossil fuel companies and politics is not only shady; it’s dangerous. The South Australian government has failed in its duty. The corporate regulators have failed in their duty. The federal government has failed in its duty. Not only should this approval be revoked and this technology banned outright; we obviously need reforms that put communities and environment at the centre of decision-making, not the profits of fossil fuel companies or the cheques being signed for their lobbyists.
Where on earth is the cop on the beat in relation to all of this? How could ASIC not step in and do something about this company, which has been proven to have such shoddy, dangerous technology, shoddy governance and shoddy officers, now setting up shop in South Australia? ASIC should be doing their job and stopping these bad actors from leapfrogging from one dangerous project to another.
South Australians are incredibly concerned about what is going on in Leigh Creek, the motives of this dodgy company and the motives of the corrupt people at the helm, and they want action. The South Australian government is hoping no-one has noticed that this licence for approval has simply been ticked off. Well, they are noticing and they will notice more. We should ban this technology outright and we should make sure the regulator does its job. We don’t need cowboys like this in South Australia. We don’t need them anywhere in Australia putting the health of our community and our environment at risk. This technology should go and the cowboys running the show should be seen in court.
The evidence is now on the table that the state and federal governments openly endorse the dangerous technology and party supported Leigh Creek Energy Project:
October 18, 2018, Sarah Hanson-Young put forward a motion in the senate chamber calling for the Leigh Creek Energy project to be stopped.
It’s was voted down by the senate today (Ayes 12, Noes 32) Notably Center Alliance and the ALP both voted against the motion.
Greens Senate motion:
a) notes that Leigh Creek Energy have produced their first syngas using underground coal gasification (UCG);
b) notes that UCG was banned in 2016 in Queensland after the Linc Energy disaster in Chinchilla, which was declared Queensland’s worst environmental disaster;
c) notes further that UCG has been responsible for incidents of poisoning the water table and contaminating soil and air and has been linked to an increase in cancers, including lung and breast cancers.
Calls on the government to urgently intervene and stop the Leigh Creek project from progressing any further and ban UCG across the country.
MEDIA RELEASE Thursday, October 18, 2018
Leigh Creek Energy project must be stopped
A team of senators from the Morrison Government, the Labor party, and Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance has rejected a motion calling for a ban on dangerous underground coal gasification. It followed a protest at Leigh Creek Energy’s AGM today.
“It is a disgrace that the Morrison Government, the Labor party and Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance teamed up today to vote down a motion that called on a ban to underground coal gasification. They were faced with the facts of the disastrous effects UCG has on communities and still backed poison over people,”
Greens environment spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“Passionate activists and community advocates are working hard to put an end to this poisonous practice in Leigh Creek. The Greens will continue to fight in the Parliament for a nation-wide ban, in the hope that the environmental disaster seen in Queensland is never repeated.
“Poisoning the water table and contaminating soil and air for the sake of profits that will mostly go offshore does not fly with the South Australian community. It is widely known that this toxic practice is not only harmful to the environment, but it makes workers sick and has been linked to some cancers.
“Queensland has acknowledged what a gross error it made when it allowed underground coal gasification to go ahead, and it was revealed yesterday that taxpayers are forced to pay the clean-up bill. It is devastating that the project ever got the go-ahead in South Australia.
“The Greens will continue to fight against this toxic project, and stand up for the community in Leigh Creek, and the traditional owners who want this project stopped.”