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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
1
@watson 12:36 pm
22 Mar 17
#

They’re planning on turning waste plastic into fuel, which sounds like a useful thing to me.

And the site they’re planning on isn’t in Chisholm. It’s in Hume, which is expressly set aside for this sort of business.

And on benefits – while there’s people buying and using fuel, there’s people finding a way to benefit from this product.

I get that new sorts of industry and products can seem (and be) risky. What would they need to do demonstrate to you that what they’ve planned is safe?

2
rommeldog56 12:39 pm
22 Mar 17
#

If the NSW Environmental Protection Agency rejected the FOY application to set up in NSW, why reinvent the wheel for the ACT ? The DA for Hume proposal should be automatically rejected.

And where are the erstwhile Labor MLAs for Brindabella, Gentleman and Burch in this ? They should be on the front foot connecting with their constituents and publicly opposing the FOY proposal. Yeah. Right. Ineffective representation, as usual.

3
chewy14 1:08 pm
22 Mar 17
#

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?

4
chewy14 1:11 pm
22 Mar 17
#

rommeldog56 said :

If the NSW Environmental Protection Agency rejected the FOY application to set up in NSW, why reinvent the wheel for the ACT ? The DA for Hume proposal should be automatically rejected.

And where are the erstwhile Labor MLAs for Brindabella, Gentleman and Burch in this ? They should be on the front foot connecting with their constituents and publicly opposing the FOY proposal.

Yeah. Right. Ineffective representation, as usual.

Because the reasons it was rejected may not have anything to do with things like air quality? Note, the article simply says it was rejected, not why. The clear inference they want you to draw is then laid out in the article but not backed up by anything.

5
Digga 1:12 pm
22 Mar 17
#

This is just diverting plastics in to the planet’s atmosphere, adding to the environmental problems we already have. Totally unsustainable burning plastics off as fuel and then using resources to replace them.
I didn’t like the list of hazardous air emissions from the project either!
https://twitter.com/CPRCanberra/status/774400176869904384

6
dungfungus 2:43 pm
22 Mar 17
#

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?

7
dungfungus 2:46 pm
22 Mar 17
#

Digga said :

This is just diverting plastics in to the planet’s atmosphere, adding to the environmental problems we already have. Totally unsustainable burning plastics off as fuel and then using resources to replace them.
I didn’t like the list of hazardous air emissions from the project either!
https://twitter.com/CPRCanberra/status/774400176869904384

If odours than can be detected by smell are evident then the ones that are odourless are there too.
We already have this problem at the nearby Mugga Land land fill.

8
rommeldog56 3:02 pm
22 Mar 17
#

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?

Here we go again. Robotic claims of Nimby’s from those who are empathy challenged and/or possibly intellectually bereft – or just trolling. I would support it being built on your doorstep.

If the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (note “Environmental” !) rejected it, then it must also be rejected in the ACT. Simple. But no, the FOY Group sense that a pro development ACT Labor/Greens Govt will take it, hook line and sinker.

9
rommeldog56 3:11 pm
22 Mar 17
#

I might also point out that this proposed FOY plant will burn “non recyclable” plastic’s. The emissions from those should be of very significant concern to anyone. They are “non recyclable” for a reason.

10
Digga 3:29 pm
22 Mar 17
#

dungfungus said :

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?

Probably the other open tip in Hume that the ACT Government has lost control over:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/businesses-voice-concerns-over-hazardous-hume-tip-20161110-gsmnf5.html

11
Garfield 3:53 pm
22 Mar 17
#

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.

12
dungfungus 4:16 pm
22 Mar 17
#

dungfungus said :

Digga said :

This is just diverting plastics in to the planet’s atmosphere, adding to the environmental problems we already have. Totally unsustainable burning plastics off as fuel and then using resources to replace them.
I didn’t like the list of hazardous air emissions from the project either!
https://twitter.com/CPRCanberra/status/774400176869904384

If odours than can be detected by smell are evident then the ones that are odourless are there too.
We already have this problem at the nearby Mugga Land land fill.

I meant “If emissions that can be detected by smell…..”

13
dungfungus 4:30 pm
22 Mar 17
#

I hope Mr Rattenbury checked out the smells from the tanning factory while he was Morocco, assuming he visited Fes that is.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/foi-delay-with-costings-for-rattenburys-morocco-visit-20170320-gv2kct.html

If he did he would get some idea of what we have to tolerate down in Tuggers.

Rattenbury was the one who demanded “all rubbish generated in the ACT stays in the ACT” leading up to the huge size expansion of the Mugga Way land fill. Not only do we take Queanbeyan’s rubbish but now he wants to allow over 100 tonnes daily of nasty plastics to be imported here every day for heat treatment.

Somehow he has made up his mind that being seen at a vague climate change conference in North Africa is more important than doing what he should be namely making sure the proposed plastic recycling factory doesn’t proceed in the Territory that pays his wages.

14
rommeldog56 4:47 pm
22 Mar 17
#

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.

15
chewy14 4:49 pm
22 Mar 17
#

rommeldog56 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?

Here we go again. Robotic claims of Nimby’s from those who are empathy challenged and/or possibly intellectually bereft – or just trolling. I would support it being built on your doorstep.

If the NSW Environmental Protection Agency (note “Environmental” !) rejected it, then it must also be rejected in the ACT. Simple. But no, the FOY Group sense that a pro development ACT Labor/Greens Govt will take it, hook line and sinker.

Have you read the material put out against this proposal from the opponents?

There is no other way to describe it than NIMBY, there’s no reasonable assessment of facts, there’s no reasonable willingness for development, the overstated claims of “hazardous gases” and the like are not based on anything other than scaremongering to get political parties to act outside of normal planning processes.

The NSW EPA did not approve their proposal in NSW, why do you automatically think that means that it should be rejected here? What exact legal reasons do you think it was rejected for in NSW that means it should automatically be rejected here?

I’ll give you an example to out the illogical nature of that position:

Say I propose to build a Greenhouse on land that has an endangered species such as pink tailed worm lizards. The EPA might object to that development on those grounds. Do you believe that this means my Greenhouse should be automatically rejected wherever it’s proposed? There are hundreds of reasons why the NSW EPA might not have approved the site that don’t actually mean anything to the suitablitity of an ACT facility.

If the site and proposal meet with the environmental requirements in the ACT, on what exact grounds do you believe it should be rejected?

Yes, of course the proposal should follow all planning and environmental processes and requirements to investigate any impacts on residents and that’s exactly what they’re doing. No more, no less.

PS, what makes you think I don’t live in the area supposedly affected?

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