How the community got HRL's dirty coal grant cancelled
Greenpeace, Environment Victoria, Quit Coal and many others united to stop the last proposed coal-fired power station in Victoria. Here's how five years of campaigning resulted in HRL's dirty coal project finally being stopped in its tracks.
2007 HRL's proposed coal power station took off when it won a $100 million grant from the Howard Government in March 2007 and another $50 million from the Victorian Bracks Government.
The campaign to stop HRL began by challenging their use of the term "clean coal" to describe the project. Despite having technology to lower its carbon emissions, HRL's proposed coal plant would still be as dirty as a standard black coal power station. Greenpeace and the Australian Climate Justice Program lodged a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission against HRL's use of "clean coal" that would have challenged the validity of their public grants.
2008 Our ACCC complaint was rejected, not because the term "clean coal" for their proposal was misleading, but because the term wasn't used in an act of trade or commerce, meaning it didn't breach the Trade Practices Act.
Even though we lost that battle, it didn't seem to do HRL much good as the project quickly went silent. We were later to learn that far from hurtling towards construction, HRL's project had stalled as they struggled to meet the milestones and conditions attached to their funding. Below is one of many examples where HRL had to ask the federal government for an extension to their grant condition deadlines.
2009 - 10 HRL's project remained quiet in 2009 and we were later to learn that their Chinese equity partner - Harbin Power Equipment Company - had withdrawn from the project, taking their 50% stake with them.
A year went by before HRL suddenly re-emerged in August 2010, now as a larger 600 Megawatt project and applied to the Victorian EPA for
works approval. With Prime Minister Julia Gillard having made a clear
commitment to ban new dirty coal-fired power stations before the election, both the Federal
and Victorian Governments drew criticism for allowing HRL's proposal to
Nearly 4000 submissions - a record - were received by the EPA as they assessed HRL's application for works approval, all but a handful opposing the project. Many of our supporters made submissions and made sure HRL's application was highly controversial.
2011 - April As the Grassroots Climate Action Summit met in Melbourne, Quit Coal activists protested HRL's dirty coal project by locking themselves in to the Commonwealth Government offices in Melbourne
Later in April a Greenpeace investigation reveals how HRL's project, originally estimated at $750 million, has skyrocketed to $1.18 billion in cost. As the news breaks, ANZ, who were originally part of the HRL deal, rule themselves out of the project.
2011 - May Despite overwhelming public opposition, on 20 May the Victorian EPA approves HRL's works application. But there's a twist: HRL can only build the power station at half the size they wanted...
... while after Greenpeace's research outed ANZ as formerly involved in
HRL's proejct, the other three of the"Big Four" banks all move to
distance themselves from it, suggesting that HRL might have legal
approval, but not necessarily the money they need to go ahead...
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