The New South Wales Land and Environment Court decided Tuesday that Centennial Coal Company Ltd, developer of the Anvil Hill mine, failed to adequately account for the greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal that the mine would produce if approved. Justice Nicola Pain ruled that the New South Wales Department of Planning approval of the mine's environment assessment was void.
Centennial Coal is Australia's largest independent coal producer. It operates 11 mines in New South Wales, supplying power plants, industries, and export markets.
The case was brought by Peter Gray, a 26 year old student at the University of Newcastle, who sued Centennial Coal and the New South Wales Department of Planning. Gray successfully argued that any approval of the Anvil Hill coal mine should take into account the impact of climate change, even emissions created by burning the coal years later in foreign countries.
New South Wales Planning Minister Frank Sartor said the effect of Justice Pain's ruling could be painful for much of Australian industry. "Don't underestimate how many industries could be touched by this." The New South Wales government is likely to appeal against the ruling.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Ben Pearson interprets the decision as a blockade on the road to new mine development. "This is an historic ruling," he said. "If you factor in climate change impacts, new mines just cannot be allowed to go ahead."
Greenpeace has been campaigning against approval of the Anvil Hill Mine. On Friday, 10 Greenpeacers entered Centennial Coal’s annual general meeting in Sydney to hang a banner reading "Centennial Coal = Climate Change." Nine activists were dragged from the room by plain clothes police while the other activist was arrested but released without charges.
Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter, and black coal is Australia's largest export, worth around $A22.2 billion in calendar year 2005.
Pearson said, "The court has recognized the link between coal and climate change and it’s time for government to do the same." Greenpeace and other environment groups are calling for an immediate moratorium on all new coal projects in New South Wales, starting with the rejection of Anvil Hill, and more renewable energy development.