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On FOY’s refinery, the ACT Greens have missed an opportunity to lead

By David Tuckwell - 22 March 2017 35

Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury of the Greens with Andrew Barr and Yvette Berry of Labor. Photo: Charlotte Harper

A warning for all Canberrans: closing the 3rd of April is a consultation on FOY Group Ltd’s plans to build an oil refinery in Hume ACT that has been rejected in NSW. Do you want an oil refinery in your backyard? Don’t miss your chance to have your voice heard. 

The Greens aren’t what they used to be.

At some point not too long ago, the party of the intellectuals and radicals started wearing suits, drifted to the right, and became more corporate. Anyone that has been to a university campus or environmentalist meeting has heard such complaints.

And nothing confirms this impression better than the ACT Greens’ response to FOY Group Ltd’s plans to build a refinery in Hume.

FOY’s planned plant would convert plastics into fuel. The facility would heat waste plastics to high temperatures like an oil refinery and siphon off gas, petrol, and diesel. The company proposes to process 200 tons of plastic a day from Sydney and Melbourne. On-site they can store 1.9 million litres of fuel.

The plant was first planned in NSW, but rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency. Subsequently, FOY has tried setting up shop in the ACT, to the disdain of residents and local business owners alike.

But the response of the ACT Greens to the pending fossil fuel plant has been milquetoast and weak. One would have thought that a fossil fuel plant near residential areas was a straightforward no-fly zone for the party of the environment.

But thus far, the Greens have only expressed “concerns” and backed the Labor-led government’s call for an expert panel to review the situation.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions around this proposed facility,” said Shane Rattenbury MLA. “There’s no real clear answer at this stage, we do … need to really investigate.”

But expressing concern is not the same thing as expressing opposition; the Greens could and should do more. Their failure to do so thus far is a missed opportunity to lead on an issue that should have been theirs.

FOY, by now well acclimatised to public opposition, has set in motion a slick and well-oiled PR campaign aimed at selling its proposals to a sceptical Canberra.

The company’s marketing has cast its technology as cutting edge, and its planned refinery process as exposing Canberrans to negligible harmful emissions. The company has argued that there are environmental benefits to the planned facility, saying it will vanish waste plastic that would otherwise end as landfill and produce road-ready fuel without digging or drilling.

The company’s claims stand on shaky ground and should be firmly challenged by The Greens, if not rejected outright.

For one, FOY’s claim that it is helping solve a plastic problem is mostly an accounting trick. There is unquestionably a waste plastic problem as anyone who has witnessed Canberra’s curbsides will affirm. But the plastics used at the refinery would be brought from interstate, thus solving a problem that isn’t Canberra’s.

The company’s claim to be processing “end-of-life” and non-recyclables is equally questionable, having no support in the recycling options for these plastics set out by The Plastics and Chemical Industries Association. An independent expert asked for comment by The RiotACT said that the plastics FOY plans to use were recyclable. It remains unclear how FOY is solving a plastic problem that recycling cannot.

Most important of all, however, is the company’s claim that its facility will expose Canberrans to negligible harmful emissions is as yet unproven. There is no independent data on what the facility’s emissions profile would look like. Residents have rightly voiced their fears and objections.

In all, there seems much to the claim of Dr Chris Klootwijk’s, an environmental researcher at ANU, that “there seems little benefit in converting these plastics back to fossil fuels, besides FOY’s profits”.

The ACT is the only state or territory in which the Greens form part of the ruling government. Canberrans are right to expect that elected environmentalists act in the interests of the environment.

In opposing FOY’s plant, The Greens would have the support of the public, much of the Canberran press and much of its political class. What are they waiting for?

Are you a resident likely to be affected by FOY’s planned facility? You can contact the expert panel at foyinquirypanel@act.gov.au or find the politician representing you at http://www.parliament.act.gov.au/members/find-your-members 

Pictured above are Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury of the Greens with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his deputy Yvette Berry last October. Photo: Charlotte Harper

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35 Responses to
On FOY’s refinery, the ACT Greens have missed an opportunity to lead
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JH 10:24 am 14 Apr 17

Classic argument, ValleyGirl ….. NSW rejected it (clearly they’re stupid) so we should embrace it in the name of being “progressive”. So you’re saying the NSW Government has made a decision for the good of the environment so we should completely undermine it AND allow the proponents to truck their recyclable plastic into the ACT from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia at even more cost to the environment so they can make a buck? Genius – and that makes the case for the article – the Greens are missing a chance to lead on an actual environmental issue here.

rommeldog56 8:11 am 29 Mar 17

In addition to FOYs proposed plastics incinerated to create fuel/oil refinery at Hume, the smell from the Mugga Lane tip – or somewhere nearby – that affects some of the residents that may also additionally be affected by any smell/emissions from the proposed FOY refinery, still persists :

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/complaints-peter-out-over-tuggeranong-tip-stink-although-residents-say-smell-persists-20170314-guy88x.html

rommeldog56 1:14 pm 27 Mar 17

Residents of Fadden, Chisholm, Mcarthur and Gilmore in particular, but also all residents in Tuggeranong, should read this submission. Yes, its 27 pages long, and detailed, but is written by a geologist/geophysicist with fifty years of experience in academic and government research about the FOY refinery proposal at Hume :

http://www.planning.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1008345/13-REPRESENTATION-201600038-C-01_Redacted.pdf

Submissions to the foyinquirypanel@act.gov.au close shortly.so have your say, and copy your submission to Brindabella MLAs to encourage them to also be proactive and effective in supporting their constituents by opposing the FOY refinery at Hume.

Remember, after its built, it will be too late. The risk is too great !!

Masquara 12:12 pm 26 Mar 17

dungfungus said :

The Greens were “leading” on air pollution issues back in 2012 when Amanda Bresnan MLA,
ACT Greens Health Spokesperson and Member for Brindabella, was addressing wood heater pollution in the ACT. She authored a paper called Exposure Draft Legislation: Environment and
Construction Occupations Legislation (Wood Heaters) Amendment Bill 2012 Consultation Paper, 1 June 2012 (It’s on the internet).

I don’t think many of the recommendations were adopted since then but she lost her seat a few months after that anyhow.

The Greens have dropped the ball on environmental issues in the ACT possibly because they have been dazzled by the lights of an oncoming tram.

Very smart of Labor to appoint Shane Rattenbury as Minister for Roads a while ago. He may well have had to take the job in order to ensure his income was high enough to secure those investment apartments? I can’t think of another explanation. As Minister for Roads, this “Green” made pro-car decisions all the way. He really should consider leaving the Greens, as he ain’t one.

dungfungus 6:55 pm 25 Mar 17

The Greens were “leading” on air pollution issues back in 2012 when Amanda Bresnan MLA,
ACT Greens Health Spokesperson and Member for Brindabella, was addressing wood heater pollution in the ACT. She authored a paper called Exposure Draft Legislation: Environment and
Construction Occupations Legislation (Wood Heaters) Amendment Bill 2012 Consultation Paper, 1 June 2012 (It’s on the internet).

I don’t think many of the recommendations were adopted since then but she lost her seat a few months after that anyhow.

The Greens have dropped the ball on environmental issues in the ACT possibly because they have been dazzled by the lights of an oncoming tram.

dungfungus 9:03 am 25 Mar 17

rommeldog56 said :

To oppose this FOY refinery being built at Hume, sign this petition please ! :

https://www.change.org/p/andrew-barr-stop-the-unsafe-polluting-plastics-to-oil-refinery-now

Read the opponents facts sheet.

Its not just “plastics” they will be incinerating, its “non recyclable plastics”. Most affected suburbs are likely to be Macarthur, Chisholm and Gilmore.

It will be too late once this untried technology – regarded as unsafe by the NSW Environment Protection Agency, is built in Hume, !!

Link to a most comprehensive and damning paper opposing the proposal here.

http://www.planning.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/1008345/13-REPRESENTATION-201600038-C-01_Redacted.pdf

It appears that the government has posted this in error so hurry up and read it before it is taken down

rommeldog56 11:19 pm 24 Mar 17

To oppose this FOY refinery being built at Hume, sign this petition please ! :

https://www.change.org/p/andrew-barr-stop-the-unsafe-polluting-plastics-to-oil-refinery-now

Read the opponents facts sheet. Its not just “plastics” they will be incinerating, its “non recyclable plastics”. Most affected suburbs are likely to be Macarthur, Chisholm and Gilmore. It will be too late once this untried technology – regarded as unsafe by the NSW Environment Protection Agency, is built in Hume, !!

rommeldog56 10:31 am 24 Mar 17

valleyresident said :

@watson has the right idea. This seems like a great idea and we should rely on the experts to protect the community not the scare mongers.
rommeldog56 has the type of closed mind that holds back a progressive society. If NSW rejects it so should we????? So if Donald Trump hates muslims so should we??? WRONG.
Let’s open our minds and be an intellegent progressive community.

So, open your mind ? If plastics sourced from the ACT largely wont be incinerated in the FOY plant, why would they set it up in Hume rather than in NSW or Vic, closer to the source of the plastics raw material and so save save costs of raw materials plus the refined fuel (assuming it wont be sold in Canberra). ?

I dont see any “experts” in the ACT Govt having in the past, protected residents in that part of Canberra where the plant is proposed. I reckon that the ACT Labor Govt is so “green” and progressive now, that the plant will go ahead regardless, like the tram, redevelopment, etc. Once the FOY its built, it will never be able to be closed if there are adverse impacts on residents. U expect local residents to have confidence in this ACT Labor/Greens Govt re the FOY proposal when they reckon that they can not find the rotting garbage/sewerage smell that already affects nearby residents (including me) ? They wont even release papers on their investigations of that which have been requested under FOI ! A closed mind ? Really ? Given the ACT Govt’s track record, I and other local residents are just trying to stop a train wreck coming.

And your comparison to Trump and muslims is just laughable. Not even close to an apples-to-apples comparison re the FOY proposal.

dungfungus 10:23 am 24 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

Wow,
Where have we heard these kinds of scaremongering claims about development in Hume and the ridiculously exaggerated claims about emissions air quality before?

Will we see the kids of these NIMBY’s getting around in gas masks trying to emotively pressure the government again despite their claims having no factual basis?

The stench of rotting garbage (from the close to Foy site) reeking from Mugga Lane tip was dreadful in Fadden at least, this morning. Perhaps the capping was washed away yesterday or it was too wet to put the capping on.

What more evidence of emmissions do you want than that?

Odourous emissions caused by the landfill are a separate issue for the ACT government to deal with, that are unrelated to this or any other proposed development.

No they are not.

The inversion layer that affects the Tuggeranong Valley and Molonglo affects everywhere in Canberra. The Greens used this fact to have wood heaters banned in the aforementioned locations and if they are to be seen as consistent they will apply the same ruling to the proposed Foy development and then have an enquiry as to why the inversion layer phenomena wasn’t considered in the EIS for the Mugga Lane land fill extension.

Sorry but you’re out of your depth here, air pollution modelling doesn’t simply say “oh there might be a regular temperature inversion here, nothing is allowed”. The modelling specifically includes meteorological data that will represent where inversions can and will occur and applies conservative assessments of the impacts on potential residents. There’s also many different types of pollutants that have different effects on people, travel differently and have different allowable limits.

Do you honestly think the EPA and scientists haven’t considered this type of phenomenon before? The assessment of these types of developments, should follow the accepted methodologies for determining impacts on residents rather than simply rejecting any type of industrial emissions due to emotive, illogical fear.

If I am out of my depth, The Greens must be under water.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/wood-heaters-banned-in-new-canberra-suburb-20120709-21rk1.html

Did you even attempt to read the report that’s referenced in your own link?

https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/ci/fattach/get/94137/1469145629/redirect/1/filename/ACT%20air%20quality%20report%202011.pdf

They didn’t just wake up and decide to ban wood heaters because there might be “inversions”, it was based on monitoring, investigation and analysis of actual air quality in the ACT and comparison against national air quality guidelines. The exact problem identified being the exceedance of standards for particulates mainly caused by wood heating, which would only be exacerbated by continual expansion of their use.

Although, they could have been more detailed in the assessment of potential technology improvements in these types of heaters that could have alleviated the problem without a ban.

Inversions cause the problem – they trap everything in (look at the photos of wood smoke over the valley) and these conditions are prevalent all over Canberra as recent research (not modelling) has demonstrated.

chewy14 9:56 am 24 Mar 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

Wow,
Where have we heard these kinds of scaremongering claims about development in Hume and the ridiculously exaggerated claims about emissions air quality before?

Will we see the kids of these NIMBY’s getting around in gas masks trying to emotively pressure the government again despite their claims having no factual basis?

The stench of rotting garbage (from the close to Foy site) reeking from Mugga Lane tip was dreadful in Fadden at least, this morning. Perhaps the capping was washed away yesterday or it was too wet to put the capping on.

What more evidence of emmissions do you want than that?

Odourous emissions caused by the landfill are a separate issue for the ACT government to deal with, that are unrelated to this or any other proposed development.

No they are not.

The inversion layer that affects the Tuggeranong Valley and Molonglo affects everywhere in Canberra. The Greens used this fact to have wood heaters banned in the aforementioned locations and if they are to be seen as consistent they will apply the same ruling to the proposed Foy development and then have an enquiry as to why the inversion layer phenomena wasn’t considered in the EIS for the Mugga Lane land fill extension.

Sorry but you’re out of your depth here, air pollution modelling doesn’t simply say “oh there might be a regular temperature inversion here, nothing is allowed”. The modelling specifically includes meteorological data that will represent where inversions can and will occur and applies conservative assessments of the impacts on potential residents. There’s also many different types of pollutants that have different effects on people, travel differently and have different allowable limits.

Do you honestly think the EPA and scientists haven’t considered this type of phenomenon before? The assessment of these types of developments, should follow the accepted methodologies for determining impacts on residents rather than simply rejecting any type of industrial emissions due to emotive, illogical fear.

If I am out of my depth, The Greens must be under water.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/wood-heaters-banned-in-new-canberra-suburb-20120709-21rk1.html

Did you even attempt to read the report that’s referenced in your own link?

https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/ci/fattach/get/94137/1469145629/redirect/1/filename/ACT%20air%20quality%20report%202011.pdf

They didn’t just wake up and decide to ban wood heaters because there might be “inversions”, it was based on monitoring, investigation and analysis of actual air quality in the ACT and comparison against national air quality guidelines. The exact problem identified being the exceedance of standards for particulates mainly caused by wood heating, which would only be exacerbated by continual expansion of their use.

Although, they could have been more detailed in the assessment of potential technology improvements in these types of heaters that could have alleviated the problem without a ban.

valleyresident 9:11 am 24 Mar 17

@watson has the right idea. This seems like a great idea and we should rely on the experts to protect the community not the scare mongers.
rommeldog56 has the type of closed mind that holds back a progressive society. If NSW rejects it so should we????? So if Donald Trump hates muslims so should we??? WRONG.
Let’s open our minds and be an intellegent progressive community.

HetC 10:38 pm 23 Mar 17

At the risk of sounding parochial, if this plant was to be located anywhere near Northside suburbs there would be a lot more effort from Labor/Green representatives to support locals trying to protect themselves and their families.. This corner of Tuggeranong showed strong Liberal support at the last election. With locals remembering all to well their battle to stop a previous proposal for a gas-fired power plant to be similarly located a short distance from their homes it’s no wonder green is no longer their favourite colour!

dungfungus 2:29 pm 23 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

Wow,
Where have we heard these kinds of scaremongering claims about development in Hume and the ridiculously exaggerated claims about emissions air quality before?

Will we see the kids of these NIMBY’s getting around in gas masks trying to emotively pressure the government again despite their claims having no factual basis?

The stench of rotting garbage (from the close to Foy site) reeking from Mugga Lane tip was dreadful in Fadden at least, this morning. Perhaps the capping was washed away yesterday or it was too wet to put the capping on.

What more evidence of emmissions do you want than that?

Odourous emissions caused by the landfill are a separate issue for the ACT government to deal with, that are unrelated to this or any other proposed development.

No they are not.

The inversion layer that affects the Tuggeranong Valley and Molonglo affects everywhere in Canberra. The Greens used this fact to have wood heaters banned in the aforementioned locations and if they are to be seen as consistent they will apply the same ruling to the proposed Foy development and then have an enquiry as to why the inversion layer phenomena wasn’t considered in the EIS for the Mugga Lane land fill extension.

Sorry but you’re out of your depth here, air pollution modelling doesn’t simply say “oh there might be a regular temperature inversion here, nothing is allowed”. The modelling specifically includes meteorological data that will represent where inversions can and will occur and applies conservative assessments of the impacts on potential residents. There’s also many different types of pollutants that have different effects on people, travel differently and have different allowable limits.

Do you honestly think the EPA and scientists haven’t considered this type of phenomenon before? The assessment of these types of developments, should follow the accepted methodologies for determining impacts on residents rather than simply rejecting any type of industrial emissions due to emotive, illogical fear.

If I am out of my depth, The Greens must be under water.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/wood-heaters-banned-in-new-canberra-suburb-20120709-21rk1.html

Garfield 12:55 pm 23 Mar 17

rommeldog56 said :

Garfield said :

Some of the material I’ve seen regarding this project is that the plastic to be converted into fuel is mainly recyclable, meaning that instead of recycling the plastic, somewhere there will be more plastic produced and there will be a host of toxic chemicals released as part of the conversion process. Those chemicals will either be released into the air or stored somewhere, which would pose big risks in case of fire. I struggle to see how this could be a good idea.

The info I got via my mailbox says “non recyclable” plastics. A report on the radio a short while ago said also said non recyclable plastics and also that initially there would be 4 kilns operating 24/7 but that the site had enough room for up to 8 kilns in total. Apparently, it will produce diesel fuel.

After doing a bit more reading it seems that most of the plastics they will be looking to convert into fuel could be recycled, but aren’t currently. It seems that the ACT recycles a greater range of plastic products than the average in Australia at this time, and that’s probably why they wouldn’t be converting ACT plastic waste but would be trucking it in from interstate. Conversion may be better than the plastic going into landfill, but the best environmental outcomes would probably be from Councils around the country increasing their recycling activities.

I also found it interesting that Victoria requires refineries to be at least 2km from homes while we don’t have anything similar in legislation and there are many homes within 2km of the proposed site in Hume.

chewy14 10:40 am 23 Mar 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

Wow,
Where have we heard these kinds of scaremongering claims about development in Hume and the ridiculously exaggerated claims about emissions air quality before?

Will we see the kids of these NIMBY’s getting around in gas masks trying to emotively pressure the government again despite their claims having no factual basis?

The stench of rotting garbage (from the close to Foy site) reeking from Mugga Lane tip was dreadful in Fadden at least, this morning. Perhaps the capping was washed away yesterday or it was too wet to put the capping on.

What more evidence of emmissions do you want than that?

Odourous emissions caused by the landfill are a separate issue for the ACT government to deal with, that are unrelated to this or any other proposed development.

No they are not.

The inversion layer that affects the Tuggeranong Valley and Molonglo affects everywhere in Canberra. The Greens used this fact to have wood heaters banned in the aforementioned locations and if they are to be seen as consistent they will apply the same ruling to the proposed Foy development and then have an enquiry as to why the inversion layer phenomena wasn’t considered in the EIS for the Mugga Lane land fill extension.

Sorry but you’re out of your depth here, air pollution modelling doesn’t simply say “oh there might be a regular temperature inversion here, nothing is allowed”. The modelling specifically includes meteorological data that will represent where inversions can and will occur and applies conservative assessments of the impacts on potential residents. There’s also many different types of pollutants that have different effects on people, travel differently and have different allowable limits.

Do you honestly think the EPA and scientists haven’t considered this type of phenomenon before? The assessment of these types of developments, should follow the accepted methodologies for determining impacts on residents rather than simply rejecting any type of industrial emissions due to emotive, illogical fear.

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