Thursday, August 20, 2015
Are "Smart" meters dumb?
As ComEd rolls out 4,000,000 Smart Meters in an effort to “modernize the electricity grid,” many Illinois residents are pushing for a no-cost or at least low-cost option to keep their existing analog meters. Instead of benefits to the consumer, these residents see risks and increased electricity bills associated with digital Smart Meters. They are not alone.
The National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy report calls Smart Meters “a canard—a story or hoax based on specious claims about energy benefits.” It goes on to say, “Congress, state, local governments, and ratepayers, have been misled about the potential energy and cost saving benefits paid for in large part with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars.”
Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General writes, “Utilities have shown no evidence of billions of dollars in benefits to consumers from these new meters. The utilities want to experiment with expensive and unproven technology, yet all the risk will lie with consumers. The pitch is that smart meters will allow consumers to monitor their electrical usage, helping them to reduce consumption and save money. Consumers do not need to be forced to pay billions for smart technology to know how to reduce their utility bills. We know how to turn down the heat and shut off the lights.”
Judge O’Connell of the Michigan Appellate Court writes in an opinion on an opt-out-rate case, “The Public Service Commission and Consumers Energy advance the notion that smart meters will save the public money on their utility bills. Unfortunately, this argument is inherently illogical: how can smart meters save money when Consumers seeks to add millions of dollars to the base rate to fund the AMI [Smart Meter] program? It appears, as the Attorney General argues and as in other states, that the smart meter program actually increases rates.” ComEd promotes the same illogical reasoning.
Some state and local jurisdictions across the country are becoming aware of risks associated with Smart Meters and objecting to deployment and/or insisting on opt-outs. In California there are 57 jurisdictions opposed to installation and 15 have passed ordinances making Smart Meter installations illegal. In spite of the opposition and opt-outs being offered in California and other states, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has interpreted a state utility law tomandate compliance. Therefore, 4,000,000 Wireless Smart Meters are to be installed on ALL homes and buildings in the ComEd service territory.
Warrenville Environmental Advisory Commission (WEAC) put in their newsletter: “WEAC would like to make a true opt-opt possible; the City does not have regulatory authority to do so.”
It now rests on the shoulders of informed citizens to educate their lawmakers, local government officials, community leaders, and neighbors. Many citizens are diligently working to secure an opt-out option and protect their families from the health effects, fire hazards, privacy violations, and cyber security risks which continue to be reported in the U.S. and around the world. There are 200 environmentally conscious groups opposing Smart Meter deployments in their countries and local communities.
Ironically, Wireless Smart Meters are not necessary to modernize the Smart Grid and are certainly not “Green”. These meters add layers of RF radiation to the environment and require extra energy usage for collectors, routers, and to run various functions of the mesh networks.
Illinois lawmakers must have been misled with regard to the “benefits” and not told about the consequences to have allowed this ill-advised program to proceed. What is essential now is for lawmakers to secure a permanent low-cost or no cost opt-out for their constituents.
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) argues that allowing customers to refuse a Smart Meter is good public policy because forcing customers to accept a Smart Meter will not be conducive to gaining widespread customer acceptance. CUB is further convinced that forcing customers who, whatever their reasons, do not desire a Smart Meter [to accept one] unfairly punishes those customers.
Judge O’Connell, when discussing the issue of an opt-out fee in the case referenced above, writes, “Why penalize those citizens… who have pacemakers and implant devices [by] being exposed to smart meters that are not UL certified safe for these devises. Electro-sensitivity may prevent some citizens from installing smart meters or visiting homes that have working smart meters.”
In the same decision when addressing health consequences, Judge O’Connell writes, [Smart meter] “issues are of great concern, not just locally, but also nationally and internationally. I note that 50 years ago, only a few brilliant minds were concerned about the health hazards of smoking, and we have only recently become aware of the health hazards of second-hand smoke. I suspect there is no need to mention the health hazards of lead-based paint or radium painted glow-in-the dark watches. At the time, all of these products were not considered health hazards.”
The Judge continues, “Historically, it is less burdensome to address these issues as they arise than to attempt to reform 20 years of ill-conceived policy decisions.”
Some of the reasons why Smart Meters are an “Ill-conceived policy decision”:
1) In May of 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified Radio Frequency emissions from Smart Meters as Class 2B Carcinogen. According to Richard Conrad, Ph.D., “This means in order to continue to receive electrical power, people are forced to live with a device on their homes that emits possibly carcinogenic microwaves 24/7. The results of thousands of studies strongly suggest that microwaves are not safe for humans. If the smart meter roll-out plan had been submitted as a proposal for an experiment on human beings, which it undeniably is, any institutional Review Board…would have rejected it outright.
2) Utilities were exempt from conducting environmental or health impact studies. Electric companies were excused from any governmental or public review showing how the decision to implement Wireless Smart Meters was safe for humans, plants, animals and the planet.
3) Privacy is a great concern. Household activities and behavior within closed doors can now be monitored through the collection of detailed discrete data. Personal habits, work schedules, and family activities are being recorded. Interpreting the data can let the utility or unwelcome parties know when the family is home or on vacation. Electric companies selling the data to a third party is now in question. In the end, the data is more valuable to the power company than the rates collected.
4) Using wireless Smart Meter Networks to connect every household appliance, alarm system, computer, car-charging station, etc., in every home, business, and government building to the Internet leaves every aspect of modern living vulnerable to cyber-attack.
On the issue of privacy Judge O’Connell writes, “Appellants argued that smart meters may in fact be the instrument of monitoring, listening, and viewing activities in individual’s homes. They also argued that smart meters are networked and, without proper security measures, anyone, including the government and hackers, could monitor a customer’s activities. I would find it disconcerting, if true, that a smart meter in conjunction with a smart television might allow others to listen and record private conversations in one’s living room.”
5) Every Smart Meter is an open portal or access point into the Smart Grid. This means foreign or domestic hackers on a larger scale and thieves on a smaller scale have an open invitation to whatever data they want to take or whatever system they want to disrupt. Consider the 4,000,000 access points ComEd is installing throughout Illinois and how vulnerable that makes residential communities.
6) Tom Lawton from TESCO on Smart Meters: “the number of reported fires in the United States has increased dramatically to the point where [Smart] Meter fires have dominated the news locally, nationally and internationally at various times in the past three years. Utilities going through a full deployment are seeing incident rates one and two orders of magnitude greater than normal, leading to a media frenzy and a public focus on the safety of the [Smart] Meter on the side of their house.”
7) Norman Lambe (LA Home and Business Insurance Examiner) writes, “The real problems concerning the installation of 51 million Smart Meters in this country are being ignored, in spite of the evidence that we have a clear and present danger. When the electrical utility determines that a Smart Meter is the issue, they have been removing the meter. [That means] tampering with evidence concerning the cause of the fire. However, the real issue as to why all the [Smart] Meters are failing is not being dealt with.”
Smart Meters can well be considered an “ill-conceived policy” in light of the health threat, invasion of privacy, hacking potential, fire risk, and increased electric bills for the majority of residents. It is unjust and not the American way to force these meters on every home without warning residents of the potential risks and offering them a choice. ComEd customers who want to ensure their family’s privacy and safety should have the option of an opt-out for their own peace of mind.
WOTUS: Woe to us
After contaminating the Animas River, EPA wants to regulate the water in your backyard
Unless a federal judge issues a preliminary injunction, the definition of the “Waters of the U.S.” will change radically on August 28. The change will give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate the water in your backyard – even water that might be in your backyard only because of a heavy rain. Even “any area where agencies believe water may flow once every 100 years,” says West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Thirty-one states, in four districts, have filed motions with the federal courts to block the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) from enforcing the new “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule, which represents a dramatically new interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The agencies’ Federal Register notice calls the new rule “definitional” and states: “The rule will ensure protection for the nation’s public health and aquatic resources, and increase CWA program predictability and consistency by clarifying the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ protected under the Act.” (WOTUS was published in the Federal Register on June 29 and will become effective on August 28.)
The interpretation is important. The CWA used to apply to “navigable waters.” Now, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently said, they will “include almost any piece of land that gets wet and puddles.”
Morrisey calls the rule “regulatory lunacy.” He has hosted town-hall meetings where he’s heard from citizens concerned that “this rule would infringe on their property rights and force them to pay thousands of dollars to do basic work around their homes, farms and workplaces.” Morrisey adds: “This rule expands a scheme whereby property owners have to ask the EPA for permission to do yardwork.” He says “Failure to comply with the new regulations could result in fines of up to $37,500 a day.”
While the word “navigable” hasn’t been removed from the CWA – that would require an act of Congress – the EPA has expanded that definition to include any water that has a “significant nexus” with navigable waters. This is where water in your back yard could be impacted. Regarding the final rule, Paxton explains: it “is so broad and open to interpretation that everything from ditches and dry creek beds, to gullies, to isolated ponds formed after a big rain, could be considered a ‘water of the United States.’”
For decades, the CWA’s single word “navigable” has been contentious with those who want to expand government control and limit industrial activity, such as oil and gas development, mining, ranching and farming. Former Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN) fought hard to have the word navigable removed from the CWA and expand its control to any waters. Despite repeated bites at the apple, prior Congresses refused to pass his legislation.
EPA, once again, uses rulemaking to do what its proponents couldn’t do through legislation. Indeed, that has been a hallmark of the Obama administration.
A July 28, officials from 31 states signed a letter written by North Dakota Assistant Attorney General Margaret Olson. Sent to both to EPA and ACOE, it requested a minimum nine month extension of the WOTUS effective date. The letter states: “the new regulation will also have a significant impact on agricultural, homebuilding, oil and gas and mining operations, as they try to navigate between established state regulatory programs and the EPA’s and ACOE’s new burdensome and conflicting federal requirements. This uncertainty especially threatens those states that rely on revenues from industrial development to fund a wide variety of state programs for the benefit of their respective citizens.”
On August 11, thirteen states – including Alaska, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico, the oil and gas “heavyweights,” as Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI) calls them – became the latest to ask a federal judge to block the controversial rule from taking effect. The states have asked for a hearing on the motion during the week of August 24. NGI states: “The oil and gas industry is opposed to the regulations because they believe it could stifle development.” A statement by the Independent Petroleum Association of America supports this assertion: “The 297-page rulemaking would require a federal permit for any activity that results in a discharge into any body of water covered by the new definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ including small streams and wetlands.”
The Texas Railroad Commission, which overseas oil and gas activity in the state, joined the multi-agency multi-state lawsuit because “the rule redefines navigable waters as used in the CWA, allowing the EPA and ACOE to regulate private land anywhere in the United States where water can conceivably flow – even dry creek beds and manmade ditches. The Texas economy is a proud beneficiary of shale drilling, and some of the water used in this process would move under the jurisdiction of the EPA with the implementation of this rule change.”
Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association told me: “This rule embodies all that is wrong with EPA’s overall regulatory approach: its costs will far outweigh any benefits, it violates both the spirit and intent of Congress in the Clean Water Act, and it has been sold as a benign attempt to add ‘clarity’ and ‘certainty’ to the marketplace, when in fact it only clarifies and makes certain the threat EPA poses to a wide swath of the economy – from mining and farming to home building and construction.”
Jason Bostic, Vice President of the West Virginia Coal Association adds: “It’s no longer about water or discharges. It’s about regulating the landscape.”
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia filed on June 28, on behalf of 9 Southeastern states (now 11, with the addition of Indiana and North Carolina), received an expedited briefing, and oral arguments were heard on August 12. Morrisey’s office told me they are hopeful for a decision by August 28.
North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem believes the states are entitled to an injunction “because implementation of the Rule will cause immediate and irreparable harm and deprive the States of the opportunity to present the merits of their case prior to this unprecedented jurisdictional over-reach taking effect.”
In addition to the 31 states, on July 2 a coalition of a dozen industry groups – from agriculture to manufacturers to mining – filed a complaint against the EPA and ACOE over the WOTUS rule.
The goal of the legal actions is to delay or defeat the regulations before they go into effect. The question is: Will the courts grant still more unfettered discretion to EPA and ACOE, even when they blatantly ignore legislative actions and intent, as demonstrated by Congress repeated refusal to delete or redefine “navigable” in the statute? Or will courts finally impose limits on these and other rogue agencies?
In a statement, Morrisey explains: “While the Clean Water Act gave the EPA and Corps authority to regulate ‘navigable waters’ – defined as ‘waters of the United States’ – Congress made sure that states would retain their constitutional, sovereign responsibility over non-navigable, intrastate lands and waters. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected the agencies’ attempts to expand their authority (in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States). However, this latest rule written by the two administrative agencies gives them virtually limitless power over these waters.”
Rules like WOTUS, and the recently announced Clean Power Plan, are lauded by environmental groups that are the likely impetus for the regulatory overreach. Senator David Vitters (R-LA), Chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy regarding “reports that the Agency inappropriately coordinated with outside organizations during the WOTUS rulemaking process.”
His statement on the matter reprimands EPA: “For decades, the Department of Justice has recommended that federal agencies do not lobby the general public to build political support for policies promoted by the Executive Branch. In 2014, the EPA embarked on an unprecedented public relations campaign, which may have violated anti-lobbying laws, to promote the WOTUS rule by working closely with outside organizations including the Sierra Club and Organizing for Action, which is closely affiliated with President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.” And EPA did this with our tax money.
Apparently, the EPA – which allowed millions of gallons of toxic waste to spill into the Animas River –in league with its “far-left environmental allies,” believes it can do a better job of protecting waterways, streams and wetlands than the states. A wide majority of states and industry disagree.
The coalition hopes the lawsuits – which are expected to be combined into one – will overturn the rule and prove that the EPA has gone far beyond it jurisdiction with this expansion of regulatory authority.
Cost of EPA's toxic spill could soar to nearly $30 billion
The cost of cleaning up a major toxic waste spill in the West caused by an Environmental Protection Agency contractor could soar as high as $27.7 billion.
That's the conclusion of study released Tuesday morning by the right-leaning American Action Forum. The group is one of the first to attempt to estimate the clean-up cost of what will likely be remembered as one of the biggest environmental disasters of 2015.
The toxic spill began Aug. 5 when an EPA contractor accidentally ruptured a wall holding back millions of gallons of wastewater containing a variety of toxic substances such as mercury and lead at a closed gold mine in Colorado.
The resulting spill created a yellow plume of toxic sludge that flowed through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah via the Animas and San Juan rivers.
EPA and state officials say much of the toxic plume has dissipated in the Animas River, which the EPA confirmed Friday as being back to pre-spill conditions. But concerns remain that pollution in the rivers' sediment layers may have to be removed, with officials predicting a clean-up effort that could take years to complete.
The American Action Forum's study attempts to piece together estimates of the cost of the clean-up effort by reviewing a variety of the EPA's own assessments and modeling that were used for related events such as oil spills.
It also examined agency cost estimates for its controversial Waters of the U.S. rule, as well as regulations for limiting water discharges from power plants.
The study concludes that the cost of the toxic waste spill "might range between $2.7 million, $424 million, or $16.3 billion, but it will probably take months to assess the full damage," which could push estimates higher.
The study says using EPA's assessments for oil spills could push the clean-up costs to as high as $27.7 billion. But the study concedes that it cannot be precise in its cost estimates, because there is little precedent for the EPA to rely upon to inform a direct assessment of the clean up.
"I think it is more likely to be in the millions because the high-end figures are based off of oil spills in the Arctic (a close comparison), however the total volume for this is less than the average major oil spill," Sam Batkins, American Action Forum's regulatory affairs director, said in an email.
The study shows that EPA's cost assessment of a power plant rule is also instructive in determining the clean-up costs, because it deals with toxins being discharged into the water, although at much lower concentrations than were recorded in the Animas spill.
It says that the spill in Colorado released more than 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the water, "which translates into more than 25 million pounds."
The group calculates that by assuming "a monetary equivalent of 90 cents per gallon of toxic waste the cost of the Animas River spill [will] be at least $2.7 million" when using the numbers from the power plant rule.
However, there are problems in using the power plant rule as a basis of comparison. The rule "was not designed to regulate acute pollution events, but rather the gradual effects of water pollution," the study says. The Animas River spill had 300 to 3,500 times the normal levels of arsenic and lead.
The $2.7 million estimate also does not account for the cost of so-called "non-use" benefits. The Animas spill reflects a number of "direct use costs" based on the "thousands of local residents, farmers, anglers and tourists [who] cannot use the river in its polluted state." On top of those costs, others could be added.
At the same time, the study raises questions about the EPA's priorities. It suggests that the Animas spill occurred at a time when the agency had sought to increase its focus on President Obama's climate change agenda. The president's budget proposed reducing funding for EPA water protection programs to do that, the study says.
"In the president's [fiscal year] 2015 budget, he and EPA proposed to cut more than $555 million from clean water protection while increasing the climate change budget by $46 million," reads the concluding paragraph of the analysis. "Perhaps we are seeing the results from those budget decisions now."
UK: New fracking drive 'to spark rural warfare'
The Greens will be out in force, using their usual coercive tactics
Campaigners warned of ‘battles’ to defend the countryside last night as vast new areas of England were left facing the possibility of being fracked.
Licences for 27 areas, mostly in northern England and the Midlands, including near Nottingham, Sheffield, Lincoln and Preston, have been awarded to companies to explore for oil and gas.
A further 132 areas, including parts of the West Country, the South Coast, the North East and North West, will follow suit subject to further environmental assessment and conditions to protect wildlife and habitats.
Around 1,000 square miles of England are covered by the 27 confirmed licences, with a further 5,000 square miles subject to consultation. It comes after measures to fast-track planning applications for fracking were revealed, with ministers able to step in and take over decision-making from local councils.
Fracking involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to release the gas trapped within. Energy minister Lord Bourne said backing onshore oil and gas, and the safe development of the shale gas industry, would help build a more resilient economy, create jobs and secure energy supplies.
‘Keeping the lights on and powering the economy is not negotiable, and these industries will play a key part in providing secure and reliable energy to UK homes and businesses for decades to come,’ he said.
But Greenpeace’s Daisy Sands said: ‘This is the starting gun to the fight for the future of our countryside. Hundreds of battles will spring up to defend our rural landscapes from the pollution, noise and drilling rigs that come with fracking.’
Andrew Pendleton, of Friends Of The Earth, said: ‘Opening up huge swathes of northern England to a fracking blitz will only provoke more anger and controversy, because wherever fracking has been proposed, it has been opposed by local people.’
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the 27 blocks of land already offered to fracking companies included 53 sites of special scientific interest and three of the charity’s nature reserves, Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire, Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire, and Langford Lowfields in Nottinghamshire.
It called on the Government to introduce new measures to rule out fracking in all protected areas including sites of special scientific interest.
Among the companies securing the 27 licences is Cuadrilla, which has secured a licence for areas between Barnsley and Doncaster and between York and Bridlington.
Ineos has won two blocks to the east of Sheffield and one south west of Mansfield.
The most successful company was IGas, which has secured seven areas to the north east of Sheffield, the north east of Barnsley and around Lincoln.
Like Cheap Natural Gas? Obama’s Clean Power Plan Will Regulate It Out of Existence
U.S. households are saving hundreds of dollars a year because natural gas prices are low, but that’s about to change. A study by NERA Economic Consulting has found new regulations on power plants mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will increase natural gas prices to 2007 levels, virtually guaranteeing these savings will soon be wiped out.
A study by the Brookings Institution found natural gas prices have plummeted as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as horizontal “fracking,” has caused U.S. natural gas production to skyrocket to all-time highs, making the United States the world’s top producer of natural gas.
Record-high production caused natural gas prices to fall from $8.03 per million cubic feet (mcf) in 2007 to less than three dollars today. As a result, U.S. natural gas consumers will save $181 to $432 per person, depending on which part of the country they live in. For a family of four living in Ohio, the savings add up to $1,036 of their money they get to keep. People change car insurance providers to save substantially less money than that.
Unfortunately, these savings will soon go up in smoke because of CPP.
The goal of the Obama administration’s new regulations is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. Because wind and solar account for less than 5 percent of U.S. electricity generation, despite receiving decades of subsidies and billions of taxpayer dollars, this goal can be accomplished only by shutting down coal-fired power plants and replacing them with natural gas-fired electricity generation.
This transition has already begun. In April of this year, natural gas accounted for more electricity generation than coal for the first time ever, with natural gas generating 31 percent, compared with 30 percent for coal. Regulating coal out of our energy portfolio will have serious negative consequences because it means abandoning a reliable, abundant, and affordable source of energy. The Obama administration’s ideological war against coal means demand for natural gas for electricity generation will continue to grow, with the goal of the CPP to increase the use of natural gas to account for an average of 70 percent of the electricity generated in each state, causing natural gas prices to climb back up to approximately $7.80 per mcf and essentially incinerating the savings U.S. consumers currently enjoy.
Those who argue the power plant rules are needed to avoid the negative effects of climate change should reconsider their position. EPA’s own climate models show the regulations will reduce the amount of projected warming by a negligible .018 C, an amount below the margin of error in the calculations. In other words, these regulations will cost billions of dollars to implement, will significantly increase the costs of natural gas and electricity, will hurt low-income families the most, and will have no positive impact on the environment whatsoever.
EPA officials argue we need the rules in order to set an example for the rest of the world. That brings to mind something our mothers told us: “If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?” The big carbon dioxide emitters, such as China and India, are listening to Mom and are not going to jump with us. On the contrary, they’re building new coal-powered plants every day.
Low natural gas prices made possible by horizontal fracking are a tremendous boon for families struggling to make ends meet, but even these low prices are barely compensating for the significant, long-term damage being inflicted upon our energy system by the Obama administration’s reckless war against affordable energy. By the time people realize the impact of the Clean Power Plan regulations, it may be too late to reverse the damage.
Australian PM wedges the Left on coal jobs
Tony Abbott has escalated his attack on anti-coal activists and challenged Labor to stand up for jobs, by moving to ban green groups from using the courts to stop major developments such as the Adani coalmine.
The government used the announcement, which would strike out the provision in environmental laws that allows green groups to challenge development consent for major projects unless they have a direct interest in the project, to declare that only the Coalition was standing up for workers.
Labor and the Greens immediately declared they would not support weakening environmental protections.
The Prime Minister said the issue was a test for the Labor Party. “Are they more interested in the politics of the green movement and are they more interested in the preferences of the Greens Party or do they really care about the workers of Australia?’’ Mr Abbott said.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government was concerned that groups with a philosophical opposition to coal were determined to delay and disrupt every coal project using protracted litigation. “It is about time the Labor Party stood up for the workers,’’ Mr Macfarlane said. “We stand up for workers. How about you guys stand up for the workers for a change.’’
Adani’s Carmichael coal project in central Queensland has proven a flash point between green activists trying to stop the development of new coalmines to limit climate change and the Abbott government, which has backed the development on the basis it will bring up to $31 billion in investment and create 10,000 jobs. Mr Abbott this month lashed the Federal Court action that sparked the delay in the approval of the mine, warning against allowing the courts to evolve into a “means of sabotaging projects’’.
Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday announced the government would remove Section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the provision that he said “allowed radical green activists to engage in vigilante litigation to stop important economic projects’’.
The move would return legal action against projects to the common law, meaning litigants would have to have a direct interest in the case to be given standing, such as landholders affected by a resources project.
Senator Brandis said Section 487 of the EPBC Act “provides a red carpet for radical activists who have a political, but not a legal, interest in a development to use aggressive litigation tactics to disrupt and sabotage important projects’’.
The government’s move won the immediate backing of resources groups but was savaged by green groups.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said a large number of new projects and mine expansions in recent years had been “subject to a calculated campaign of protests and harassment, including vexatious and incessant legal appeals lodged by a small band of extreme environmental groups’’.
“If unchecked, this gaming of legal and approvals processes campaign will exact a significant toll on the Australian economy,” Mr Pearson said. “This strategy has already led to a delay in the Carmichael project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, posing a threat to 10,000 jobs and billions of dollars in investment.’’
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the government seemed “determined to strip Australians of the right to legitimate legal action to protect nature in this country’’.
WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman cautioned that proposed changes to the EPBC Act “increase the risk of corruption by removing checks and balances in government decision-making’’.
Greenpeace accused the Abbott government of “throwing a tantrum” and said the move would “gut national environmental protection laws’’.
Mr Abbott said the Adani issue was “a setback for the reputational risk of Australia’’ and jobs were being threatened by “the militancy of the green movement led by the Mackay Conservation Group’’.
He said the group was located 600km from the mine and was represented by the NSW Environmental Defender’s Office, which was located a 13½-hour drive from the mine.
“There has been a litany of challenges against a mine that in fact is going to power up the lives of 100 million impoverished people in India,” Mr Abbott said. “It represents $20bn of investment in Australia and 10,000 new jobs in Australia. And they are real jobs for truck drivers, train drivers, electricians, engineers, mechanics and geoscientists stretching from Cairns to Mackay, Brisbane to Perth.’’
Ellen Roberts, the co-ordinator of the Mackay Conservation Group, accused the government of seeking to divert attention from its drop in the polls.
“Coal companies should not be above the law and the government should not be doing their bidding by changing the law to remove the rights of the community to have a say,’’ Ms Roberts said.
Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler and legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus declared Labor would not support weakening environmental protections or limiting a community’s right to challenge government decisions.
“Since being passed by the Howard government 15 years ago, the EPBC Act has been the overriding national environmental protection law, including throughout the mining boom — and environmental groups are required to operate within this law,’’ Mr Butler said.
The government had been caught out for not properly managing the approval process for the Adani mine under the act, he said.
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Posted by JR at 12:41 AM