No go for climate change in appeals

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 05:00 02/05/2012

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Climate change cannot be used as grounds to appeal coal-mining projects, such as the Escarpment and Mt William North, the Environment Court has ruled.

At a hearing in March, Australian-owned Buller Coal, a subsidiary of Bathurst Resources, and state-owned Solid Energy petitioned the court for a declaration that greenhouse gases from future coal use cannot be used to appeal against resource consents for mining it.

Environmental group The West Coast Environment Network and the Forest & Bird society lodged a competing application that climate change should be considered in the consents process.

Both Solid and Bathurst are seeking consents for new West Coast mining projects and have been opposed by environmentalists, who say coalmining causes climate change.

However, Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook yesterday ruled in favour of the miners. He found regional government should plan for the effects of climate change, but leave regulatory action on it to central government.

That means the environmental groups, which are appealing the development of the Escarpment mine on Buller's Denniston Plateau, cannot use climate change in the upcoming Environment Court hearings.

In his decision, Judge Newhook said all parties agreed climate change was a serious global issue, and that the coal from the mines will probably be burned, releasing greenhouse gas CO2.

They also agreed the miners were part of the Emissions Trading Scheme and surrendered carbon credits for release of methane in mining and for coal burned in New Zealand – except those large customers which have also opted into the scheme.

Bathurst told the NZX the decision was positive, and it expected Judge Newhook to release a timetable for the coming appeal hearings.

West Coast Environment Network spokeswoman Lynley Hargreaves said the organisation had two weeks to appeal the decision, and it was unsure if that would occur.

Solid Energy spokesman Bryn Somerville said the ruling was useful for everyone involved in the Resource Management Act process, because it gave clarity about whether greenhouse gas emissions were considered. "That's a positive for both sides."

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