Communities that live with the pollution of coal-fired power stations are the big losers from French energy giant Engie shifting $1 billion in dividends out of Australia days before the carbon price took effect in 2012, Environmental Justice Australia said.
Documents from the Paradise Papers investigation show Engie, the owner of Hazelwood and part owner of Loy Yang B, quietly moved the billion dollars offshore days after receiving $117 million from Australian taxpayers as compensation for the introduction of the carbon price.
“When these international power companies take Australian taxpayers’ money – that was supposed to be used to reduce emissions – and send it offshore, it means there is less money available for pollution control, decommissioning and rehabilitation,” said EJA researcher Dr James Whelan.
“The Latrobe Valley community, which lives every day with the burden of toxic coal pollution, would have benefitted greatly if Engie had used its $117 million in carbon price compensation, or its $1 billion windfall profits, to install pollution control equipment to Loy Yang B.
“Loy Yang B’s toxic emissions are among the highest in the country and it does not have the effective emissions controls that are required of power stations in the US and Europe.
“Coal-fired power stations emit more than 30 toxic substances and are Australia’s biggest source of fine particles (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
“These substances cause and contribute to asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease, headaches and nausea in nearby communities.
“The profits Engie shifted offshore might have been set aside for the decommissioning and rehabilitation of the Loy Yang B power station.
“The Victorian Government has not established best practice standards for decommissioning and rehabilitation and has not required a bond from the company for the work that will be necessary to manage the toxic site once Loy Yang B stops generating electricity.
“Engie could also have invested in transition planning for Hazelwood and Loy Yang B, to build large renewable energy capacity and create secure employment in the Latrobe Valley.
“Transition planning is being neglected by companies generating energy from coal and by Australian governments.
“This revelation further erodes the coal industry’s social licence. It is increasingly difficult for communities to trust companies to do the right thing.”