29 May 2012

Meridian misjudged millions on the Mokihinui hydro dam

Gareth Hughes blogs that energy company Meridian's persistent advocacy for Mokihinui River hydro dam proposal, including obtaining resource consents, has now been proven to be a waste of 18 million dollars now that Meridian has withdrawn the proposal and the consents.

Gareth is bang on to describe the Mokihinui Dam proposal as ‘far-fetched’ and ‘unconsentable’. It’s the Conservation Act not the the RMA that makes the dam proposal ‘unpermit-able’ (if thats even a word!).

The Mokihinui River is conservation land. The Minister of Conservation can’t just give away conservation areas for non-conservation purposes.

The case law is a 1995 High Court declaration Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General [1995] 3 NZLR 344 that said that the Minister of Conservation was correct to decline to give away the Ngakawau River for a hydro dam as it wasn’t a conservation purpose.

Meridian and its advisors have only themselves to blame for the $18m dead-loss (and also DOC’s costs). When they initially scoped out the feasibility of the proposal, they should have realised that the Buller Electricity precedent was a very high hurdle to cross.

I can only presume that their initial scoping suffered from ‘optimism bias’. It was also their choice to pursue resource consents before receiving formal access to the conservation land from the Minister of Conservation.

22 May 2012

Kevin Anderson tenuous hope brutal numbers

This is a brilliant talk by Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester and the Tyndall Center about how the OECD countries have deluded themselves that they are doing anything meaningful to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

The title of the talk is "Going Beyond Dangerous Climate Change: Exploring the void between rhetoric and reality in reducing carbon emissions"

Or download the audio file

There is also this alternative version.

20 May 2012

Too big to fail

Here is the other Simon Johnson talking about breaking up the American banks that are "too big to fail". This is the key message from the book 13 Bankers Johnson co-wrote with James Kwak. See also this Wall St Journal article

13 May 2012

9 May 1962 to 9 May 2012

I missed marking the actual day of 9 May 2012.

However, I dedicate David Bowie's song "Cracked Actor" from the 1973 Aladdin Sane album to the date 9 May 2012.

I've come on a few years from my Hollywood Highs

The best of the last, the cleanest star they ever had

I'm stiff on my legend, the films that I made

Forget that I'm fifty cause you just got paid

Crack, baby, crack, show me you're real

Smack, baby, smack, is that all that you feel

Suck, baby, suck, give me your head

Before you start professing that you're knocking me dead

Oh stay

Please stay

Please stay

You caught yourself a trick down on Sunset and Vine

But since he pinned you baby you're a porcupine

You sold me illusions for a sack full of cheques

You've made a bad connection 'cause I just want your sex

06 May 2012

The zombie ETS infects the RMA with climate insanity

The Environment Court won't consider James Hansen evidence on coal and climate change in the appeal against the Escarpment opencast coal mine consents

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme ("NZETS") has become living-dead "zombie" legislation that infects other statutes with its own virulent climate change insanity. The example is a recent decision by the Environment Court that it can't consider climate change impacts of coal mining as described by James Hansen in the Forest and Bird appeal of the resource consents for the opencast 'Escarpment' coal mine.

The other week I saw the zombie genre film 28 Weeks Later on tv. The turning point in the film was when British actor Robert Carlyle kissed his wife and was instantly infected with the 'Rage Virus', which of course meant he had to turn into a homicidal-virus spreading-living-dead zombie who would then infect the rest of the surviving population of post-Rage Virus London. A great zombie movie movement!

For me, another much less amusing zombie moment, was last week's news from TVNZ, Radio NZ, the Otago Daily Times, and the Dominion Post, that the Environment Court had declared that climate change effects from coal mining will not be considered in Forest and Bird's appeal of the consents for the opencast coal mine the Escarpment_Mine_Project.

For background to the Escarpment Mine Project, including James Hansen's videotaped climate change evidence given to Jeanette Fitzsimons, and the conservation and biodiversity issues, see Claire Brownings Pundit post. And there is wildlife photographer Rod Morris' view that the mine proposal is simply ecological destruction on a massive scale. Botanist Alan Mark reminds us that the coal measure landscape of the Denniston Plateau is the only one left as Solid Energy have destroyed the other one - the Stockton Plateau.

According to the Dominion Post, Judge Newhook's decision was "that regulatory activity on the important topic of climate change is taken firmly away from regional government and made the subject of appropriate attention from time to time by central government by way of activity at a national level".

If we are at all unclear what that means, coal apologist and Stratera boss Chris Baker explains that this means the NZETS; "We have an emissions trading scheme, we are well ahead of our obligation internationally...".

The utter ill-logic of the "we have an ETS, more coal mining and exporting is okay" argument is that although the NZETS applies to all coal mined within New Zealand, all coal exported is exempted. Bathhurst Resources intends to export all the coal from the Escarpment Mine. So the application of the zombie NZETS to coal mining means that there will be no carbon price on the coal from the Escarpment Mine.

And this zombie effect of the NZETS in making coal "alive but dead" to a carbon price, then infects the application of our great sustainability-promoting externality-internalising Resource Management Act. The coal exports are "regulated" (in reality protected) by the NZETS. Therefore the RMA doesn't apply.

The consequence will be that the Environment Court will not be considering the effects of the Escarpment Mine on a level playing field. They will attempt to reach a broad overall judgement of what is sustainable. They will balance the economic effects of more export dollars and jobs on the West Coast against the many adverse environmental impacts on a unique coal measure ecosystem full of rare and endangered endemic species. But the scales of justice won't be fairly weighted, as the adverse impact and the externality of the greenhouse effect of the coal have already been taken off the adverse effects side of the ledger.

The NZETS is truly a ZOMBIE.

04 May 2012

The Ministry has fallen

Is the Environment Court a bulwark against emissions-intensive projects such as open-cast coal mines that will provide the coal that will exacerbate climate change? You would think it would be wouldn't you?

You would think that our great history-making sustainability-promoting Resource Management Act would give a fair shake of the stick to the idea of considering climate change as some of the possible adverse effects of a proposal.

Especially if the proposal is an opencast export-oriented coal mine on protected conservation land, where adverse effects on biodiversity and on rare natural landforms would obviously be an issue.

Apparently not.

Bathhurst Resources Limited are a relatively new coal mining company in New Zealand. Bathhurst Resources would like to construct an open cast mine on an area of 200 hectares of conservation land on the southern Denniston Plateau, on the West Coast near Westport. Bathhurst would extract and export between one and four million tonnes of coal a year. Bathhurst call it the Buller Coal Project. Wikipedia calls it the Escarpment Mine Project. The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society calls it the wipe out of the ecology of the Denniston Plateau. Bathhurst Resources and Solid Energy have successfully made a pre-emptive strike against the appeals of the council decisions to grant resource consents to Bathhurst Resources for their proposed open cast coal mine in the Mt Rochfort Conservation Area on the West Coast's Denniston Plateau - the Escarpment Mine Project.

Bathhurst Resources and Solid Energy have successfully obtained a declaration from the Environment Court that climate change effects from the combustion of the coal cannot be considered in the appeal of the resource consents.

Dominion Post - Miner eyes fast-track option for Denniston

TVNZ Climate change ruling irresponsible

Forest and Bird - Court decision ignores serious threats of climate change

Otago Daily Times - Court will not consider climate change.

I am left wondering if the judge concerned bothered to attend one of James Hansen's talks last year.

It seems that the Environment Court is a bit like the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter novels. It denied that Voldemort had returned. It then weakly opposed him and then "The Ministry has fallen" under control of the Deatheaters.