Senate inquiry told governments needed to plan for power station closures years ago

12/12/2018 Posted by admin

Questions: Liddell power station near Muswellbrook. A transition team to look at the consequences of its closure in 2022 is needed, an inquiry heard. Picture: Simone De Peak.

A TRANSITION team to help the Hunter deal with the consequences of its coal-fired power station closures should have been established years ago, a Senate inquiry has been told.

Lawyers group Environmental Justice (EJA) said the Federal Government needed to initiate, resourceand steermechanisms to assist the region after AGL confirmed Liddell power station would close in 2022, and Bayswater in 2035.

The Liddell closure raises serious issues about electricity availability for Tomago Aluminium and its 1000 workers, a Senate inquiry looking into retirement of coal-fired power stations was told this week.

The EJA said the Federal Government needed to act because state governments had “neglected this important work” because of conflicts of interest as owners of power plants, and because corporate power generators had political influence.

“Detailed transition plans would already have been developed and stakeholders would be in broad agreement about the timeline for closure and mechanisms to minimise upheaval” if governments had recognised the potential for significant consequences fromthe closures and a world moving towards putting a price on carbon, the EJA said.

“Deliberative processes to minimise social disruption need to be set in place as far as possible in advance of changes such as coal plant closures,” the EJA told the inquiry in Sydney.

The Hunter had paid a high price for its coal-based industries, the EJA said.

“The annual costs of associated health damages from the five coal-fired power stations in the Hunter have been estimated at around $600 million per year,” the EJA said.

“People that live within 50 kilometres of coal-fired power stations face a risk of premature death as much as three to four times that of people living further away.”

EJAwas instrumental in calling for a judicial inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria.

The Senate inquiry is considering the case for planned closure of coal-fired power stations and policy mechanisms to help workers and communities.

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