Environmental groups challenged an amendment to the provisions of a local planning scheme that was necessary for the expansion of the Hazelwood coal mine in southeastern Australia. The petitioners claimed that the environment effects statement (EES) should have included analysis of the impacts of carbon emissions when the coal is later burned. The terms of reference for the EES stated that “[t]he Panel is not to consider matters related to greenhouse gas emissions from the Hazelwood Power Station - these issues are being addressed through a separate process. ”
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined the Panel should have considered concerns about climate impacts from burning the coal after they were raised under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. The Tribunal found that the Panel must “provide a reasonable opportunity to be heard to any party who wishes to make a submission in relation to the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the Hazelwood Power Station; and [must] consider those impacts in making its recommendations and report to the planning authority. ” Id. at sec. 1.
Even though the Panel ultimately approved the amendment after considering the GHG emissions from both the mine itself and the later coal combustion, the case is still important for connecting the impacts of GHG emissions from burning coal to the activity of mining the coal.
The Federal Court criticized the environmental assessment review panel for failing to obtain and analyze information about existing and proposed forestry and mining activities in the area surrounding the Cheviot Coal Project, stating that the information was readily available and that the panel had a duty to consider the combined impacts of mining and timber harvesting during the environmental assessment process.