The Supreme Court has reserved its decision on whether councils granting coal mining consents should consider how the end use of the coal will effect climate change, even if it is burned overseas.
Consents for two West Coast mines are in limbo awaiting the court's decision.
Buller Coal Limited, which has an Australian parent company, and state-owned Solid Energy have both been granted land use consents for mining which have been appealed to the Environment Court.
West Coast Environment Network wants councils who decide coal mining resource consents to have regard to the effects on climate change of the discharge of greenhouse gases from the end use of the coal.
It has appealed against a High Court decision that said the power had been removed for local authorities to consider the effects of climate change from the end use of coal, although a mechanism might be put in place for them to do so in future.
In both the cases before the court the coal is intended to be exported for steel production overseas, including China and India.
Buller Coal intends open cast mining at the Escarpment Mine on the Denniston Plateau. Solid Energy wants to mine at Mt William North.
The case was considered important enough to justify short-cutting the usual route for appeals so it moved directly from the High Court to the Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeal.
From the mining side, the court heard that climate change was dealt with at a national level and with international co-operation except where there were specific exceptions for local authorities to deal with green house gases.
But the West Coast Environment Network said it was not a case about trying to regulate what was happening in another country. It was a matter of considering a danger or harm, often in very general or generic terms, and putting that into the balance when deciding resource decisions.
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