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Climate Policy In Danger Of Going Up In Smoke

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today that Environment Minister Marian Hobbs must use her powers under the Resource Management Act to 'call in' applications to build thermal power stations lodged by Genesis and Contact Energy.

Genesis have applied to the Waikato Regional Council for permission to build another 400 MW thermal power station at Huntly, while Contact Energy is applying for another 400 MW station at Otahuhu.

The call-in provision of the RMA enables the Minister to make the final decision on matters of national significance. Ms Fitzsimons said the construction of these stations raises matters of national significance, in particular our international obligations to the Kyoto Protocol, that cannot be decided by regional councils.

"Our climate change policy is in danger of going up in smoke if these power stations proceed.

"If these stations are built there will be a significant long term increase in CO2 emissions from thermal power stations in New Zealand. If a third proposed thermal power station in Taranaki went ahead, the three together would result in a total increase in thermal power station capacity of about 50 percent," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"National's Environment Minister Simon Upton called in the Stratford thermal power station application when it was lodged with the Taranaki Regional Council in the mid 1990s. The policy issues were no different then than they are now, but since then we've signed the Kyoto Protocol."

Ms Fitzsimons said claims that these new stations will replace older, less efficient thermal stations lack credibility because there is no requirement that this actually occurs, and no plan to dismantle old stations. Electricity demand is rising. The country should be looking at phasing out old thermal power stations and replacing them with renewable energy technologies such as wind power, not building new plants with an economic life of about 30 years.

"Despite the Government's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, it appears to be taking an even more laissez faire attitude towards CO2 emissions than National. It would be very bad news if the Huntly and Otahuhu stations were allowed to go ahead with lesser conditions than Stratford."

"The Government has looked good on climate change issues, but this is the first test on whether its stated commitment to the Kyoto Protocol means anything," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"What we need is a moratorium on new thermal power stations, not three more CO2 factories."


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