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Taxpayers to subsidise coal under climate plan

For immediate release
Coal Action Network media release

Taxpayers to subsidise coal mining under climate change plan

The greenhouse gas emissions from coal production have been entirely left out of the cap and trade carbon scheme released by the Government today.

"We're astounded. We never imagined that the Government would let coal companies – who can well afford to pay – off the hook so completely," said Coal Action Network spokesperson Alex Winter-Billington.

The gasses released during coal production, known as "fugitive emissions", are primarily methane gas that escapes from underground coal seams as mining occurs.

"Fugitive emissions are part of New Zealand's Kyoto liability – so if the companies don't have to pay for them then the taxpayer will," said Ms Winter-Billington.

New Zealand's greenhouse gas inventory for 2006 lists 450,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from fugitive coal mining emissions, a 65 percent increase since 1990. New mining development means that figure is soon likely to be much higher.

"Using the Greenhouse Gas Inventory methodology, we calculate that state-owned Solid Energy's Spring Creek Mine, near Greymouth, will put out in excess of 300,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent per year, once in full production. At $30 a tonne, that would cost the taxpayer almost $10 million every year.

"Given the right incentives, companies could reduce their fugitive emissions through flaring of the gas, harnessing it for power production, or reducing planned mine expansion. So why has the Government chosen to subsidise the dirtiest and most polluting of New Zealand's industries?"

For more information, please contact Alex Winter-Billington on 027 4225 128 or at coalactionnetwork@gmail.com


1. Fugitive emissions from coal mining in New Zealand are primarily from methane that is trapped as the coal forms and released during underground mining. Surface mining also results in some emissions, and methane is released during the crushing and transportation of coal from all mines. Methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

2. New Zealand's latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory is available from the Ministry for Economic Development: http://www.med.govt.nz/upload/49905/1_GHG_report.pdf . Fugitive emissions from coal are dealt with on pages 17 and 18.

3. Methane levels are particularly high in the Greymouth coalfield (Spring Creek and Pike River mines).

4. In contrast to coal mining fugitive emissions, those released from geothermal energy sources will be included in the emissions trading scheme

5. It is not clear whether human caused mine fires, such as the fire that has been burning at Solid Energy's Strongman Mine for the past decade, are covered by the emissions trading scheme.

Coal Action Network (CAN) is made up of individuals and groups committed to fighting the continuation of coal mining in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was recently formed specifically to fight Pike River Coal Company Ltd, a company that is preparing to mine coal beneath native forest adjacent to Paparoa National Park and has applied for a further permit to mine beneath the national park. CAN intends to extend its focus over time and to utilise the full spectrum of non-violent action to bring about the cessation of coalmining in this country. To get involved, please email coalactionnetwork[at]gmail.com


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