Press release from the West Coast Environment Network
11 March 2013
A small West Coast environment group will face off against two large coal companies – Australian Bathurst Resources and state-owned Solid Energy – at the Supreme Court this week, arguing that climate change is relevant for coal mining consents.
“Even the companies admit that their coal will contribute to climate change,” says West Coast Environment Network spokesperson Lynley Hargreaves. “So we should be able to call evidence on it.”
The group intended to call NASA’s Dr James Hansen to give evidence against the proposed Escarpment Mine at a 2012 Environment Court hearing in Westport. But Bathurst Resources and Solid Energy sought and obtained declarations from the Environment and High Courts that climate change is excluded from coal mining – and by implication other – resource management considerations.
“We are arguing that the courts when applying our overarching environmental legislation shouldn’t ignore the most serious threat facing humanity today,” says Ms Hargreaves. “Resource consent hearings already take other complex matters into account, such as acid mine drainage and biodiversity loss. Climate impacts need to be weighed up too.”
“We are all going to face the effects of climate change – more floods, droughts and extreme weather events,” she adds.
The hearing begins at the Supreme Court in Wellington at 10am on Tuesday 12 March.
1. The legal argument centers around the interpretation of a 2004 amendment to the Resource Management Act, which was to replace local authority consideration of climate change from New Zealand fuel combustion with a central government carbon tax, later changed to an Emissions Trading Scheme. However the amendment applies only to discharge permits, so West Coast Environment Network argues that it has no applicability to a coal mine when no application is made for a discharge permit.
2. The Environment Court has yet to announce a decision on the Escarpment Mine case, which was heard in 2012 without climate change evidence.
3. An Environment Court hearing on Solid Energy’s latest mine proposal, which was appealed by the Royal Forest and Bird Society, has been postponed pending the outcome of this week’s Supreme Court hearing.