The company proposing the Fyshwick waste-to-energy burner faces an uphill battle to win approval, despite halving its ambitions after the ACT Greens officially came out in opposition to such a facility.
After releasing a waste policy framework, Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said in a letter to key ministers and community stakeholders that there were better ways for the ACT to manage its waste and generate electricity than incineration.
Mr Rattenbury said his party believed in a zero-waste future and was committed to practices that minimised waste.
The framework also bans waste incineration due to concerns about its health and environmental impacts.
“I believe that burning residual waste is no better than burning dirty fossil fuels and does not allow us to achieve the maximum economic and environmental benefit from those resources,” Mr Rattenbury said.
He said the Greens also did not support providing a feed-in-tariff for energy produced from burning rubbish, preferring renewable sources of electricity.
Although Mr Rattenbury is a key member of Cabinet he could not block the Capital Recycling Solutions (CRS) proposal as the ACT had an independent planning process.
“I don’t believe that there is currently any proposal before Government. But if there were, it would need to go through all the appropriate Environmental Impact Study and independent planning processes, including community consultation in both of those processes,” he said.
“It would then be considered by the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. As the ACT has an independent planning authority, development application processes are not considered by Cabinet.”
But he said the Greens would take all steps necessary to ensure that the ACT did not start burning waste in the ACT.
“I have sent our policy document to relevant Government Ministers and made it clear that we would like to see our principles incorporated into the ACT’s waste management strategy. If this strategy is updated to exclude waste incineration, it is unlikely that any companies would apply to establish any plants in the ACT without indicative Government support,” he said.
Mr Rattenbury said he expected the Government’s Waste Feasibility Study to be released soon.
The Fyshwick proponent, Capital Recycling Solutions, said last week that it would reduce the size of the facility from a 30-megawatt electricity plant to a 15-megawatt electricity plant.
“We have halved its size as we have heard the ‘feed the furnace’ concerns of some stakeholders. This will mean we won’t import any waste from Sydney – another concern we have heard,” CRS Director Adam Perry said.
The company also said it would now submit two distinct draft environmental impact statements – one for the recycling part, by the end of the year, and another for the waste-to-energy aspect, due for display in 2018.
Mr Perry said CRS now planned to divert some 300,000 tonnes of waste a year from the Mugga Lane Tip by rail to the Woodlawn Bioreactor.
“This then saves valuable landfill space at Mugga Lane for the ACT to continue disposing of hazardous and problematic wastes. This would considerably extend the life of the Mugga Lane landfill and defers the need to clear adjacent woodlands for an expansion of that site,” he said.
Mr Perry said CRS was also going to develop the freight rail terminal on the site to export recyclables and other materials by rail rather than trucks on ACT roads.
He said CRS remained committed to the waste-to-energy facility but would now take more time to complete its studies and to discuss the results with the community.
“This facility, a first for the ACT, will provide renewable energy for thousands of Canberra homes, using proven European technology currently found in similar environmentally-minded and smart cities around the world,” Mr Perry said.
“It is important and necessary work and there is a lot of information to convey and be considered.”
CRS – a joint venture between Benedict Industries and Access Recycling – has also established a joint venture with ActewAGL Retail for the generation of baseload ‘renewable’ electricity for the ACT grid.
What are your thoughts on this project? Do you think the CRS proposal will benefit Canberrans at the risk of damaging the environment? Let us know by commenting below.