Gareth Hughes

Lignite coal to stay in the hole

by Gareth Hughes

I am celebrating today after the news that Solid Energy will be dropping its Lignite project in Southland. This is a win for the climate and our environment and for Southland.

My thoughts are with Solid Energy’s employees who will be going through a time of great uncertainty. There should have always been a transition plan in place for workers and its time that we prioritise sustainable industries that won’t subject workers to this kind of uncertainty and boom and bust nature of the fossil fuel industry.

This project would have seen lignite, the lowest grade and dirtiest coal, dug up, destroying prime farm land, and turned into briquettes. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment came out against the project and its climate implications. In her report she said: “Just one of the two proposed lignite-to-diesel plants would increase the gap between the international climate change commitment we have made and where our greenhouse gas emissions are headed by 20 per cent. If both proposed lignite-to- diesel plants were to be built, the gap would increase by 50 per cent”.  She also  reported that the industry is unfairly subsidised by taxpayers under the current rules of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I’d like to say a big thank you and congratulations to Coal Action Network, and the locals in Southland who have been working hard on this issue for years to ensure a more sustainable future for Southland and Aotearoa. They’ve been doing the tireless work on the ground, highlighting the massive flaws in these plans, and organising the Coal in the Hole Summer festivals, which I have been to each time in the last two years.

Just a couple of days ago I urged the Southland District Council to make mining for lignite a prohibited activity in its new district plan in my op ed to the Southland Times and urged others to do likewise with our online submission guide. I also worked on a Member’s Bill that would ensure, under the Emission’s Trading Scheme, that Lignite projects are fully liable for the costs of the Greenhouse gas emissions they emit. I’m glad that in this case, the coal will remain in the soil and those Greenhouse gases won’t be released into the atmosphere.

Bill English today came out blaming Solid Energy’s smaller renewable investments for the company’s decline, which doesn’t stack up. As I pointed out in my blog a couple of weeks ago, it was the company’s coal projects which has contributed the vast majority of the company’s debt.

I hope that everyone who has worked hard to keep the coal in the hole will take a moment to celebrate this victory today.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Fri, February 22nd, 2013   

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