Marsden B decision – a giant leap backwards
Auckland, Monday 26 September 2005: Greenpeace today condemned the decision by Commissioners acting for two Northland Councils for allowing Marsden B coal fired power station to go ahead.
"The decision is one giant leap backwards, back to out dated, polluting energy sources. It is a terrible blow for the environment, for the local community and for efforts to tackle the world's greatest threat – climate change," said Greenpeace climate campaigner, Vanessa Atkinson.
"With New Zealand set to overshoot our Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction targets, and scientists are warning us that we have only 10 years to avoid climate catastrophe, it is ridiculous to allow the country's first coal-fired power station in 25 years."
Greenpeace thinks that the Commissioners have misread the Resource Management Act by ignoring climate change, as the Act does provide for this vital matter to be considered (1).
Marsden B would annually release up to 2.17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and Greenpeace's evidence in the hearings also highlighted the risks to human health and the environment from mercury, dioxin and sulphur emissions.
"The Commissioners' claim, that this power station would have the most stringent environmental controls of any coal plant in Australasia. However, the best of a dirty bunch is still dirty," said Atkinson.
"Marsden B would be so polluting it would never get approved in the US, Japan, Germany or Sweden according to evidence presented to the hearing by a world-renowned scientist with over 35 years of experience in environmental assessment of power plants, Dr Phyllis Fox.
"This decision shows how dirty and polluting coal is (2). The Commissioners have set a limit of just under 3kg of mercury emissions per year when Mighty River Power asked for 35kg. Yet the average annual emission levels of Mighty River's preferred coal type would be 14kg, almost 5 times the level they have been allowed. Mercury emissions also vary dramatically: up to a maximum of 168kg could be emitted per year from their preferred coal type and even more for other coals. "Mighty River Power will really struggle to meet the mercury limits with any coal," said Atkinson.
Mercury would be discharged into an environment where local snapper are already at the upper limit of mercury levels safe for human consumption. "In this case, Mighty River Power had not even undertaken studies to find out how much mercury is in the Bream Bay marine life. To add even the amount of mercury permitted in this consent in these circumstances is a completely unacceptable risk."
"In this age of climate change, New Zealand does not need a great big, carbon-belching, toxic emitting power station. We need clean renewable energy and a long term sustainable energy strategy to get us there," said Atkinson.
Greenpeace also pointed out the irony of the Marsden B decision being released on the day that hearings begin in Wellington for New Zealand's biggest wind farm, West Wind.
Greenpeace's call for a sustainable, long term energy strategy was supported today by the New Zealand Business Council on Sustainable Development report on energy scenarios. However their preferred scenario relies on experimental technology to capture and store carbon emissions. But a report (3) released today by world experts on this experimental technology warns that it would likely only be deployed at a large scale in the second half of this century.
"New Zealand needs to address climate change and protect our environment and human health by developing a long term strategy encouraging renewable technology such as wind farms, stopping climate-polluting power sources such as Marsden B and increasing energy efficiency," concluded Atkinson.
Notes: (1) The Act allows climate change to be considered to the extent that the development of renewable energy allows for greenhouse gas reductions. Marsden B would shut out or hinder renewable energy development, thereby impacting on greenhouse emissions. (2) Other problems include the up to 7.8 tonnes of sulphur dioxide per day the plant will emit, again at the upper levels of the national limits, and, depending on weather conditions, possibly exceeding them. (3) Special Report on Carbon Capture and Storage, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agreed in Montreal over the weekend.