Wednesday, 23 September 2020

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT AND METHANE

Months ago the Australian Government revealed it was looking at a gas led recovery from the economic slump the nation is in as a result of the COVID crisis. Last week we heard more about this plan.

This latest energy ‘policy’ is another disappointment.  Since it came to power in 2013 the Federal Government has introduced and then abandoned a series of energy policies, largely because of the intransigence of the climate deniers in in its ranks who are determined to continue business as usual with fossil fuels.

This latest is just another version of business as usual.  Instead of coal, we have gas – methane  – another fossil fuel.  The Government’s claim that gas is not as emissions intensive as coal ignores the problem of fugitive emissions during gas mining and transport.  And methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas which, although it remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time than CO2 , is about 86 times more potent per unit of mass over 20 years according to recent studies

The folly of replacing one fossil fuel with another is just one of the problems with the Government’s latest energy plan.  Another is the economic situation of the gas industry globally.

According to Bruce Robertson, a gas analyst with the Institute of Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis, the gas industry around the world is in dire straits for a variety of reasons.  There is a global gas glut with gas companies around the world declaring bankruptcy and major projects being shelved.

And yet we have the Federal Government supporting the expansion of gas mining and pipeline infrastructure and construction of a gas-fired peaking plant in the Hunter Valley.  And if the private sector won’t build this plant, the government says it will build it.  Robertson says, “If investors won’t back it, why should taxpayers?”

If the federal government gets its way, we will be locked in to using gas for around 30 years, endangering our Paris climate commitment as well as exposing taxpayers to the likelihood of a stranded asset. 

Looks as if the long term national interest is once again a politician-inflicted casualty.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on September 21 ,  2020.

 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

NEFA DEMANDS FULL SURVEY AFTER FINDING KOALA REFUGIA

 

In light of the increasing evidence of the devastating impacts if the bushfires on Koalas, the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is renewing its calls for a thorough independent survey to identify the full extent of Koala refugia in Myrtle State Forest after finding a significant Koala fire refuge on 3 September..

In a brief audit of 7 hectares of burnt forest in Myrtle State Forest  NEFA identified 1,118 Koala scats under 18 trees, with 516 scats under one tree, in an area where the Forestry Corporation have never identified Koalas.

Despite the Government's refusal to look before they log, NEFA have proven that Koala fire refugia exists in Myrtle State Forest, and are likely to be more widespread, making it clear that a full survey needs to be undertaken if the Government has any intent of honouring their promise to save Koalas, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.

"Rather than continuing to intentionally and blindly log surviving koala refugia the Government must undertake surveys to identify and protect them from further degradation", Mr. Pugh said.

"The recent report by Steve Phillips for WWF found an average 71% reduction in Koalas in burnt forests.

"The scats we found in Myrtle State Forest are all post-fire, indicating the colony was once a lot larger.

"This surviving Koala colony is of exceptional importance for recovery of the decimated Banyabba population, it is grossly irresponsible for the Government to now log it.

"The new logging rules require the Forestry Corporation to protect 10% of the potential logging area in perpetuity as Wildlife Habitat Clumps and Habitat Tree Clumps, and the rules for burnt forest require an additional 7% to be temporarily protected.

"There are a variety of criteria for selecting these exclusions, including that they maximise inclusion of the most important Koala habitat, such as the area we have identified.

"The problem is that there is no requirement to undertake surveys to identify the most important wildlife areas to be protected in perpetuity, rather it is up to the whim of a forester. So while 17% of the potentially loggable area of this forest is required to be protected, there is no requirement to first identify Koala refugia for inclusion.

"NEFA's Preliminary Audit of Myrtle State Forest found that the Forestry Corporation were selecting the most heavily burnt and degraded forests for permanent exclusions. As a result of our complaint logging was postponed on the 24 August when the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) intervened to oversee the Forestry Corporation's selection of exclusions.

"NEFA's request to the EPA that a scat detection dog be used to undertake a thorough search for Koalas with a view to identifying remaining core Koala habitat for protection was dismissed.

"The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) 2020 have recently undertaken surveys of 15 areas of national parks in north east NSW using a combination of scat-detection dogs and modelling to comprehensively identify the remaining Koala refugia, noting 'Identifying fire refugia areas and understanding their spatial configuration within the surrounding burnt matrix is crucial to post fire species recovery and management'.

"This highlights that the Government's refusal to survey for Koalas on State Forests is ideological because contrary to their pretence they don't want Koala fire refugia to be identified or excluded from logging" Mr. Pugh said.

 

NEFA's report 'The identification of Koala refugia in Myrtle State Forest' is at https://www.nefa.org.au/audits

 

Sunday, 23 August 2020

THE EPA's POOR ENVIRONMENTAL RECORD


In August 2018, at the request of the owner of a newly acquired bush property, the Clarence Environment Centre investigated a Private Native Forestry (PNF) operation that had been undertaken there immediately prior to the new owner taking possession.

That investigation uncovered horrific environmental damage, and blatant flouting of the PNF Code of Practice, under which the logging was approved. Hundreds of trees, many of them old-growth, were found to have been logged in breach of almost every section of the Code.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was called in and a team of investigators descended on the property, spending 3 days documenting the reported breaches. Shortly thereafter, the new landowner received an email from the EPA stating: We did carry out further inspections of your property yesterday. We focused on consolidating on (taking further waypoints, measurements, notes and photographs) what we observed with you on 21.09.18 in area A. We also inspected sites that you previously visited and earmarked as potential breaches of the PNF Code. So far we have recorded a range of breaches, many of which have been repeated across the landscape

This was good news, but as the months passed without further word, memories of past disappointments over the EPA's failure to regulate the logging industry, flooded back. The months dragged into years, and a week before the 2 year statute of limitations was reached, the landowner received the bad news that the EPA had closed the case, stating: “Although the EPA identified that there were potential breaches of the PNF Code of Practice, it was not possible to identify the responsible party to the requisite level of proof”.

What a load of balloney! The property owners operated a sawmill on the property for years, up until the land changed hands. How can it possibly be claimed that because nobody actually witnessed the trees being cut down, that no one could be held responsible?

Things have to change but I'm not holding my breath, and I fear recent EPA stop work orders over alleged illegal logging in Wild Cattle Creek State Forest will likewise end in disappointment.

            - John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 17 ,  2020.