The Queensland state government is to seize control of the approvals process for a controversial coal fired power station being proposed by Clive Palmer, announcing it will use its ‘call-in’ powers to take over the process from a local council.
Palmer’s Waratah Coal had applied to the Barcaldine Regional Council for development approval for a new 1,400MW coal power station in central Queensland, close to the company’s coal mining developments.
It’s an asset that no one wants – apart from perhaps local National MPs and Senators – and will likely not be built anyway.
But there have been concerns about whether the local council has the means to properly assess the proposal, and state planning minister Steven Miles has proposed the “call-in” powers to bring the approval process under state government jurisdiction.
“Currently, this application isn’t subject to public consultation. I want to make sure the community get their say on a project of this scale,” Miles said in a statement.
“The assessment work undertaken by the Council will be very useful to the Planning Department in their preparation of advice to me regarding whether the project should be called in for consideration at a State level.”
Waratah Coal is developing new open cut coal mines in the same region as the proposed power station, with the combined capacity to produce around 40 million tonnes of coal a year.
The company had proposed adding a $3.5 billion power station, which would use 4 million tonnes of coal produced from the Waratah mines, and the Barcaldine council was expecting to reach a decision on the development approval before Christmas.
Concerns had been concerned about the development process being followed by the council, which did not require the project to notify the public, nor were the proponents required to undertake consultation with the local community.
Environment groups have also raised significant concerns about a proposal to build a new coal fired generator at a time when investment, and state government policy, is pivoting towards renewable energy technologies.
The Queensland state government said that the process being followed by Waratah coal was outdated, and echoed concerns that the scale of the project was not appropriate for consideration at the local government level.
The Queensland Conservation Council welcomed the proposed call-in, saying that the Queensland government should ultimately move to refuse development approval for the coal plant.
“We have had enough of the political game playing over coal power stations,” Queensland Conservation Council Director, Dave Copeman said.
“This proposal should be seen for what it is, a dangerous proposal that’s not needed, put forward through a loophole, by a company that shares the same address as a fringe political party.
“This power station would endanger our environment, it would impact on groundwater in the region, it would risk our international reputation, and it would threaten jobs in the renewable superpower industry of the future. It’s dangerous, and the Minister should call it in and refuse it.”
The Queensland government will seek submissions from interested parties about the proposed call-in for a three week period.