Environment Southland had no legally valid reason for holding a full public hearing to consider applications for a proposed lignite briquetting plant in Eastern Southland.
Solid Energy applied to Environment Southland for an air discharge permit for emissions associated with the processing of lignite to create briquettes, and for water and discharge permits for washdown and boiler blow-down water. The process included a lignite fuelled boiler, drying and crushing plant, and various minor ancillary activities, some of which have the potential to cause dust emissions
The Council’s Director of Resource Management, Warren Tuckey, said today that there was no evidence that the environmental impacts of the plant would be anything other than minor, or less than minor. Therefore there were no grounds for notifying the discharge permit applications.
He acknowledged that this was frustrating for those who wished to use every possible avenue to oppose the industrial use of lignite, but the Resource Management Act specifically prevented such concerns being raised as objections to an application for a permit to discharge emissions to air.
“The water and discharge permits were very straightforward and their effects were clearly going to be less than minor,” Mr Tuckey said.
“The air emissions required more consideration and the company's assessment was independently reviewed by a consultant in Christchurch. The review confirmed that the adverse effects of the air emissions would be minor.”
The Council’s staff did consider whether the applications should be publicly notified anyway, because of public interest. “However, the public concern centred around coal mining and greenhouse gas emissions, and the Resource Management Act specifically excludes consideration of the effects of air discharges on climate change,” Mr Tuckey said. This meant that even if people made submissions about climate change, the Council couldn’t do anything to address those concerns in the context of the discharge permits applied for.
“By removing consideration of the effects of activities on climate change from the Resource Management Act, the Government has effectively said that this matter is a national issue and it will be dealt with at that level.”