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Commissioner damns lignite, PM signals support

Commissioner damns lignite, PM signals support

Damning evidence against lignite mining presented by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment flies in the face of Prime Minister John Key's support for such projects, Labour's climate change spokesman Brendon Burns says
"While John Key is on record backing the idea of Solid Energy's plan to dig up Southland lignite and produce diesel, the Commissioner, Dr Jan Wright, yesterday told a select committee that the SOE's lignite plant would see New Zealand's gap on reducing greenhouse gases grow by 20 per cent.

"She pointed out that under current ETS rules, the taxpayer could subsidise Solid Energy's lignite-to-diesel plant to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars a year. She also said that a refusal by an SOE to accept a subsidy in the form of free carbon credits meant going further than its competitors and risking the profitability of the venture," Brendon Burns said.

"The Commissioner's advice regarding matching the lignite plant's CO2 emissions with tree planting was that it require around 40 times more new hectares planted than currently put in the ground. The concept of piping CO2 200km or more to the Great South Basin for storage was 'way out there' because of the physical uncertainties."

Dr Wright also stated any plans for storing CO2 should be made public, because however lignite was processed, the volumes were massive. New Zealand was already tracking to miss its 2020 greenhouse gas commitments by being 30 per cent above the promised output, rather than the promised 10 to 20 per cent below, she said.

"I don't imagine John Key will listen to such damning evidence given the Government consistently puts its pro-growth agenda ahead of scientific advice and sound environmental management.

"Plans to increase lignite mining 100-fold to produce fuel and fertiliser hark back to the days before climate change was accepted as a looming reality and the planet's greatest challenge," Brendon Burns said.

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