Encouraging news from the US, where the state of Oregon has become the country’s first to legislate a shift away from coal, after committing to eliminate the use of coal-fired power by 2035 and to double the amount of renewable energy in the state by 2040. The Guardian reported on Friday that the “landmark” new law – which had been passed by the state’s assembly, and would now need to be signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown – would transition the north-western state away from coal, which currently provides around a third of its electricity. The state will also require its two largest utilities to boost their share of renewable energy capacity to 50 per cent by 2040. Combined with Oregon’s current hydro-power generation, this would make the state majority renewables-powered by that date.
Meanwhile, in Australia…
NSW’s Baird government has distinguished itself this week by labelling farmers and other community members opposing coal-seam gas development in the state as “eco-fascists”. The comments, made by resources minister Anthony Roberts, accompanied the announcement of new measures to crack down on CSG protesters, including increased fines and new search and seizure powers for police. More specifically, the Daily Telegraph reports, the powers will allow police to issue “move on” orders on private land, similar to those now available on public land, while fines for aggravated unlawful entry will rise from $550 to a huge $5500.
The new rules – which come a month after AGL Energy said it would quit CSG exploration and production due to poor economics and a changing focus – have angered opponents of CSG mining, including the Australian Greens, who said the introduction of the “draconian new offences” – along with Roberts’ inflammatory comments – revealed the Baird government’s true colours.
“Many of those taking direct action against coal seam gas projects are farmers who feel they must act to protect the land and water from being poisoned or destroyed,” said Greens MP and resources spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham in a statement on Monday. “I’ve sat next to a 64 year old farmer with a lock around his neck and the gates of Santos’ project out of concern for water resources and his family’s farming future. To label these patriots ‘eco-fascists’ is wrong and offensive …Does Mike Baird care more about paying back his political donors in the mining industry, and doing the bidding of his former Chief of Staff, Stephen Galilee, who now runs the Minerals Council of NSW, than he does about farmers and communities in regional NSW?”