Hooray for citizen action on coal

This week the people had decisive wins for climate change, challenging the expansion of coal mining and the dodgy practices of coal fired power generators.

  • Led by 84 year old alpaca farmer, the Oakey Coal Action Alliance had a victory 3 Feb in its long-running legal case against the New Acland coalmine in Darling Downs, Qld, taking it all the way to the High Court. It’s not over yet – evidence still has to go to a fresh land court on the considerable impacts of the mine on local farming and on climate change. That expansion was expected to release an extra 100 million tons of climate pollution, bringing the mine’s total to roughly 370 million tons or the equivalent of about 70 percent of Australia’s total carbon emissions from 2019. The lawsuit argues that climate change is causing grave harm and that new coal projects exacerbate that harm, particularly for young people as climate impacts worsen over time.
  • So far 46,000 Qld power customers signed onto the biggest ever energy class action, seeking compensation from government-owned coal-powered generators, Stanwell and CS Energy for what is said to be a $800m/year practice of gaming, and those costs were passed on to consumers.

And earlier:

  • Adani had to pay $2,000 and apologise to an anti-coal activist for wrongly accusing him on Facebook of chucking rocks at people’s utes. We daresay the $2k was no big deal but the apology must have hurt!
  • Last September, law firm Equity Generation Lawyers filed a class action on behalf of 8 young people to stop the Minister for the Environment approving the Vickery Extension Project – a $700m open cut coalmine near Gunnedah, NSW – which had been approved by the NSW Planning Commission.
  • In August, Adani was ordered by the Qld Supreme Court to pay four terminal users damages for unconscionable conduct to advance its financial interests over other coal companies. Adani is rebranding in the hope of improving its reputation, not helped by asking the Qld supreme court to allow them to conduct an unannounced search of an activist’s family home. Apparently surveillance of activists is usual practice for Adani.  The court said no.
  • In July a 23 year old Melbourne law student filed a class action lawsuit against the Australian Government for allegedly failing to disclose to government bondholders the climate-related risks of their investments. It made news around the world.
  • In May, a group of young Queenslanders under the name Youth Verdict filed a lawsuit against the developer Waratah Coal, challenging the Galilee Coal Project. That project in central Queensland, with its multiple underground and open-pit mines, is expected to produce 40 million tons of coal per year and would generate nearly 3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over three decades. Youth Verdict is suing on the grounds that the Galilee Coal Project will exacerbate climate change and violate these young people’s human rights under the Queensland Human Rights Act. Passed in 2019, this new law recognizes fundamental rights such as rights to life, security of the person, equality before the law, and the protection of families and children.  
  • In February 2019 the Land and Environment Court in New South Wales rejected a mining company’s appeal of a government decision not to permit a new open-pit coal mine. Chief Judge Brian Preston wrote that the coal project “would be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He explained that this is not the time to be building new coal mines because coal “will increase global total concentrations of [greenhouse gases] at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

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