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Community pushes back against $600m gas power plant in Hunter region

The project has been called a “heinous misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Environmental activists in Sydney are pushing back against the announcement of a $600m gas-fired power plant in the NSW Hunter region.

Taking to Martin Place this morning, contingents led by the University of Sydney Environment Collective and Knitting Nannas urged the Morrison government to abandon the project, calling it a “heinous misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Announced in June, the project will see government-owned company Snow Hydro Limited build a 660 megawatt generator in Kurri Kurri using unallocated funds in the Federal budget. It is intended to make up the energy shortfall left by the recent closure of the Liddell coal power station in the Upper Hunter.

Today’s protest is part of a nationwide campaign for 100% renewables, a just transition for workers and a halt to new gas and coal projects.

Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, said the gas plant was part of the government’s “gas-fired recovery,” claiming it would deliver an “important economic boost to the region” and create up to 600 new jobs.

However, these plans have been slammed by experts and environmental groups alike, who say we shouldn’t be replacing one fossil fuel with another, and that the money would be better spent on renewables.

“There is no economic case for public spending on gas,” said Nicki Hutley of the Climate Council. “It drives up electricity prices, it increases emissions at a time when the rest of the world is reducing emissions, and it creates very few jobs.”

At the protest, Environment Collective member Eva Matthews pointed to the plant’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions of 14.8 million tonnes across its lifespan, as indicated by its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The EIS also indicated the plant would likely run on diesel fuel for at least six months due to inadequate gas connection, and that it will operate at a peak of only two per cent capacity.

Matthews also noted that despite the government’s promises of job creation, the project would create only 10 full time jobs once operational, and 250 full time equivalent positions at the peak of construction activity.

The gas plant will be built on the site of the former Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter, which was purchased by major Liberal Party donor Jeff McCloy last year. 

“We want science-backed climate solutions, not greenwashed government schemes to line the pockets of Scott Morrison’s friends in the fossil fuel industry.”

Today is the final day of the Kurri Kurri gas project’s exhibition stage, which collects written submissions from the public. Once submissions are collected, the Government will be required to prepare a response before the project is finalised.

Pending approval, construction of the Kurri Kurri power station is expected to commence in July 2022. 

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