Queensland breathes a sigh of relief

That was close! The outcome of last weekend’s state election means north Queensland will not have a new coal-fired power station.

While the election outcome in Queensland is still not completely clear, it appears the Labor Party has been returned. Prior to the election, the Liberal National Party and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation had pledged $1.5 billion for a new coal-fired power station in the state’s north – potentially at Collinsville.

The Katter Australia Party and the Queensland Labor Party expressed their opposition to the plan. Premier Annastastia Palaszczuk said the idea was not commercially viable and it would keep energy prices high for 40 years.

Instead, Premier Palaszczuk committed $150 million to new renewable energy projects. Queensland Energy Minister Mark Bailey described the new coal-fired power station proposal as ‘one of the most irresponsible policy propositions I’ve heard’ and ‘nonsense’.

Announcing his support for a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explained that it would, of course, be a ‘high efficiency low emissions’ (HELE) plant. If you read EJA’s recent Toxic and Terminal report, you will know that HELE plants emit only 14% less toxic pollution than a subcritical plant. So, still dirty, still toxic.

Queenslanders’ rejection of a new coal-fired power plant is good news for Australia. We’re struggling to meet our Paris commitments in a rapidly heating world.

It’s good news for Queensland, where the transition to healthy renewable energy is gaining momentum. Queensland is on track to 50% renewable energy by 2030.

And it’s particularly good news for residents in Collinsville. The town is emerging as a hub for renewable energy, with a $100 million 42MW solar farm under construction. The last thing Collinsville needs is a massive burden of toxic pollution. Residents in other parts of Queensland, such as Gladstone and Rockampton, are routinely exposed to toxic pollution because of the coal-fired power stations there.

Energy policy is a BBQ stopper around Australia, and is likely to remain so for some time. But making Queenslanders pay with their health – just because some politicians can’t see beyond coal – is no solution.

By Dr James Whelan

See also: Coughing up for coal-fired power

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