Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Contaminated groundwater, pollution at 1000s of sites in South Australia

July 23, 2014

polluted-waterToxic sites in Adelaide’s suburbs number in their thousands BRAD CROUCH THE ADVERTISER JULY 22, 2014  THE Opposition has demanded a statewide audit of contaminated sites, as it emerges the dangers of trichloroethene entering groundwater was suspected as far back as the 1940s.

The call for an audit comes after Environmental Protection Authority chief executive Tony Circelli confirmed that “thousands” of sites were contaminated with various chemicals and the EPA received about 100 new notifications each year.

The State Government and Environment Minister Ian Hunter are under increasing pressure over the contamination scandal in Clovelly Park , where dozens of people have been forced to leave their homes because of health risks from the vapours of trichloroethene (TCE) rising up through the soil from industrially poisoned groundwater.

Mr Circelli, was responding to a claim by UniSA Professor Ravi Naidu, the managing director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation, that there are about 4000 contaminated sites in SA.

Mr Circelli said that claim was incorrect, but conceded the number “is in the thousands”.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said an audit was needed to clarify the exact number of contaminated sites and their locations. “The purpose of conducting a statewide audit would be to establish a hierarchy of sites based on potential public health risks,” he said.

“As well as playing an important community awareness role, the audit could also provide a benchmark for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of contaminated sites for the EPA and assist with any future contamination investigations………

Sorry, Tony Abbott, solar power is thriving in Central Australia

July 23, 2014

Red Centre keeps shining as solar technology hub  ABC Rural  By Lauren Fitzgerald Central Australia is continuing to attract international investment from the solar industry, despite the Alice Solar City initiative wrapping up more than a year ago. In its five-year history, the program helped hundreds of homes and businesses install solar panels and solar hot water systems.

The general manager of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), Lyndon Frearson, says Alice Springs now also has a reputation as a hub for developing technology.


He says companies from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland and America are all installing different solar PV modules at the CAT site. “The range of their investment varies depending on the size of the facility that they want to put in,” he said.

“Some of them are putting in little five-kilowatt systems as a test site, where they might be putting a number of small test sites around the world, through to a Swiss-based company which only has three R & D [research and development] facilities in the world, and they chose to build one of them here.

“And certainly those investments are in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Mr Frearson says local businesses like the Alice Springs Airport are also demonstrating an ongoing commitment to solar. “They received a subsidy to do their original project, but they’ve just [installed] 320 kilowatts off their own bat, completely their own investment. “And that’s both a maturing of the economics, that the solar panels are cheaper and the energy prices have changed.

“But it also shows a degree of confidence that they as an organisation and their board have in the technology to better run their business. “And there are a number of examples within Alice and broader afield throughout central Australia where different entities are making those decisions.

“So I think the legacy of Alice Solar City in central Australia is strong. “Certainly it’s something we see people talking about with pride, and we still see people outside of Alice focus very heavily on and see Alice Springs as a leader in this space.”

Coal utilities financial ‘death spiral’ as solar rooftops proliferate in Australia

July 21, 2014

Game-changing rooftop solar boom is squeezing the profits out of coal power in Australia Michael Graham Richard (@Michael_GR)  14 July 14

Solar power briefly turned electricity prices negative in Queensland Australia is known for its coal, which provides over 80% of its electricity and is a big export, but someday soon it might be known for its solar power. Thanks to rapidly falling solar PV prices, there’s been a rooftop solar boom in Australia. It’s now reaching a point where few coal generators made money last year, and even fewer will make profits this year… Wholesale energy pricing even briefly went negative in the middle of the day (see graph below) recently in the middle of the day in Queensland where there is 1.1 gigawatt of solar spread over more than 350,000 buildings.

Australia as a whole has about 3.4GW on 1.2 million buildings! Eventually, coal won’t be able to compete with solar at any price:

let’s imagine that the wholesale price of electricity fell to zero and stayed there, and that the benefits were passed on to consumers. In effect, that coal-fired energy suddenly became free. Could it then compete with rooftop solar?

The answer is no. Just the network charges and the retailer charges alone add up to more than 19c/kWh, according to estimates by the Australian energy market commissioner. According to industry estimates, solar ranges from 12c/kWh to 18c/kWh, depending on solar resources of the area, Those costs are forecast to come down even further, to around 10c/kWh and lower. (source)

The next step will be for people to get some storage and go off the grid to avoid having to pay these network charges. Australian solar installers are already reporting that “between 15 and 20 per cent of solar customers are asking about storage, and that rate is increasing each month.”

With companies like Tesla having ambitious goals to cut battery prices down over the next few years with gigafactories, the combo of cheap solar PV + cheap battery storage will be hard to beat. Dirty power sources will simply stop being competitive. Australia has lots of sun and high network costs, so it’s at the forefront of this movement. But most other countries will follow at their own pace. The best things we can do to accelerate the switch over to clean energy is to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, create regulation that is more friendly to rooftop solar (net-metering, for example), and put a price on carbon emissions.

What’s going on in Australia’s murky world of “clean coal”?

July 20, 2014

Hear-This-wayThe search for the clean coal holy grail The Abbott
government and a group of investors are pinning
their environmental hopes on a clean coal technology that is still in the very early stages of development. Paddy Manning tracks the quest for the clean coal holy grail and investigates the men getting unspeakably rich from the search.

clean coal.psd

The federal government is pinning its hopes of cleaning up Australia’s electricity
sector on a new clean coal technology that is still at the laboratory stage.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has made clear that a key plank of the government’s plan to tackle climate change is reducing emissions from existing black and brown coal-fired power White,-Johnstations……

Ignite Energy Resources, a member of the DICE network, recently recieved a $20 million grant to produce liquid fuel for DICE engines from brown coal, among other things………

photo - Dr John White Executive Director, Ignite Energy Resources

How Aboriginal people fought against nuclear waste dumping in South Australia

July 19, 2014

handsoffThe nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist  Jim Green 14th July 2014 Dumping on South Australia “……….The failed attempt to establish a dump at Muckaty followed the failed attempt to establish a dump in South Australia. In 1998, the Howard government announced its intention to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia.

Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern SA. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu in the 1950s.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in SA that the federal government hired a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws.

In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”.

The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well. ‘Terra nullius’!

In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

Victory in the Federal Court

The Kungkas continued to implore the federal government to ‘get their ears out of their pockets’, and after six years the government did just that.

In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election – after a Federal Court ruling that the federal government had acted illegally in stripping Traditional Owners of their native title rights, and with the dump issue biting politically in SA – the Howard government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

The Kungkas victory had broader ramifications – it was a set-back for everyone who likes the idea of stripping Aboriginal people of their land and their land rights, and it was a set-back for the nuclear power lobby.

Senator Nick Minchin, one of the Howard government ministers in charge of the failed attempt to impose a nuclear dump in SA, said in 2005:

“My experience with dealing with just low-level radioactive waste from our research reactor tells me it would be impossible to get any sort of consensus in this country around the management of the high-level waste a nuclear [power] reactor would produce.”

Minchin told a Liberal Party council meeting that “we must avoid being lumbered as the party that favours nuclear energy in this country” and that “we would be political mugs if we got sucked into this”……..


Warren Mundine, Tony Abbott’s appointed top Aboriginal adviser plans to sue Fairfax media

July 17, 2014
Mundine-and-AbbottWarren Mundine planning to sue Fairfax THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 14, 2014 12:00AM 
Victoria Editor Melbourne
THE Prime Minister’s senior ­indigenous adviser, Warren Mundine, plans to sue Fairfax after he was accused of brokering a “highly questionable deal” that gave a mining company ­access to an Aboriginal sacred site in Western Australia.

“The allegations against me published in Fairfax Media last weekend are false,” Mr Mundine says in the statement to be ­released today.

Australia’s legal and political dealings with Aborigines need transparency and rigourous governance

July 17, 2014

First principles owed to our first people July 14, 2014 The Age Transparency, accountability and rigorous governance are tenets of good public and corporate policy. Without them, there can be little confidence that outcomes will be decent and fair, let alone optimal. The Age‘s investigative team on Saturday revealed that conflicts of interest compromised the process and outcome of a land deal that gave a mining company access to an Aboriginal sacred site in Western Australia.

The evidence raises concerns that the traditional owners of the land, the Martu people, have shamefully been denied the financial benefits they ought to have received. It also casts doubt on the judgment and suitability of the federal government’s indigenous policy supremo, former ALP national president and head of the Indigenous Advisory Council Warren Mundine, because a company he part owned and of which he was a director helped broker the deal.

The company, Indigenous Investment Management Pty Ltd (IIM), was appointed by mining company Reward Minerals to negotiate the deal to mine for potash at Lake Disappointment with the organisation supposed to be representing the Martu people’s interest, the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation. The probity of the deal is brought into question by a clear potential conflict of interest: the chief financial officer of the corporation also held shares in IIM. IIM succeeded in getting the corporation to abandon its opposition to allowing the mining company access to the sacred site.

Further, confidential advice to the corporation’s board from its lawyers said the negotiation process had “no validity” and had put directors and executives at risk of breaching legal obligations to act honestly and eschew self-interest. Mr Mundine’s integrity and competence need to be seen to be beyond reproach, as his national leadership role involves a delicate balance. He is seeking to prevent the corruption that can sully indigenous organisations receiving mining money, while promoting Aboriginal economic development by opening up more land…….

In coming days, Mr Mundine and Prime Minister Tony Abbott are meeting to discuss a report that could revolutionise the participation of indigenous people in the economy. This newspaper considers improving the lot of Australia’s indigenous people one of the most pressing issues for our nation. Our investigation casts doubt on Mr Mundine’s authority to lead such overdue and crucial change.

Western Australia’s Lake Disappointment mining deal – doubts about legal advice given to aborigines

July 17, 2014

Legal advice questioned controversial mining deal: July 15, 2014 Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie More legal advice has emerged questioning the process that led to a controversial deal between a West Australian aboriginal corporation and a mining company.

Fairfax Media has obtained advice from a third in-house lawyer for the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation which cast doubt over the process that lead to a deal with Reward Minerals to mine a Martu sacred site in outback WA called Lake Disappointment.

At the weekend, Fairfax Media revealed how two other in-house lawyers for the Western Desert corporation wrote an explosive July, 2011 memo warning that a soon-to-be signed deal with Reward had “no validity”, in part because the corporation’s board and executives had, in their opinion, not acted in the best interests of the Martu people.

A 2009 email reveals that a separate in-house lawyer for the corporation also raised concerns about the Martu people not having given “proper informed consent” to an in-principle agreement signed with Reward to mine Lake Disappointment a year earlier.

In March, 2009, the Western Desert corporation’s then in-house lawyer, Christina Araujo, emailed acting chief executive Tony Wright to advise that she was not “prepared to state that I believe WDLAC has the informed consent of the common law holders” because it could put her practising certificate at risk.

“Tony, further to our conversation on the 6th of March, I am confirming in writing concerns I have in relation to the Reward negotiations,” Ms Araujo wrote. “Apart from my personal observations, I have also had discussions with a number of others who were also of the view that proper informed consent is or may be lacking.

“Going through the files, it appears Katherine Hill [another legal adviser], on numerous occasions provided advice on proper informed consent and it is noted in a file note dated 16/10/2007 that she spoke to Joe Procter and Clinton Wolf about her concern that people did not seem to understand there was a mining proposal over Lake Disappointment.

“It does not appear in the files that the matter was discussed in detail with the common law holders … it is an issue for WDLAC if we do not have informed consent for the Reward matter. Any agreement which may result may be invalid.”

Mr Procter was a consultant helping the Western Desert corporation negotiate the initial 2008 deal and Mr Wolf was then the corporation’s chief executive.

Ms Araujo’s March, 2009 email came at the same time the Native Title Tribunal heard Martu elders testify about the cultural significance of the Lake Disappointment site.

The tribunal was asked to rule on Reward’s proposal after relations between the mining company and the Western Desert corporation stalled in mid-2008 amid an argument over legal costs. In a historic ruling, the tribunal rejected Reward’s bid on the basis of Lake Disappointment’s cultural importance to the Martu people. It was the first time the tribunal had refused a mining company’s application.

But, as reported by Fairfax Media at the weekend, the Western Desert corporation altered it stance on the Reward proposal in 2011, despite strong doubts from another set of in-house lawyers about the negotiation process not being conducted in the best interests of the Martu people.

Ms Araujo’s successors as the Western Desert corporation’s in-house lawyers warned that the Reward negotiation process had in their opinion put the corporation in breach of most of its legal obligations as the trustee body for Martu people.

In a January, 2011 announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Reward revealed it had in late 2010 approached the Western Desert corporation to re-open talks over Lake Disappointment.

On April 1, 2011, Reward announced to the ASX: “Reward has appointed Azure Capital and its affiliate Indigenous Investment Management (IIM) as advisers to assist in discussions with the Martu traditional owners.”

Company documents show at the time of this announcement that IIM’s shareholders and directors included former Western Desert chief executive Mr Wolf, senior Azure Capital executives and Warren Mundine, who was last year appointed as the federal government’s top indigenous adviser.

Another shareholder at this time was the Western Desert corporation’s chief financial officer Mr Wright.

Mr Mundine has confirmed that he was not personally involved in the negotiations nor benefited from the deal.

Western Desert corporation chief executive Noel Whitehead and Mr Wolf said external legal advisers were engaged in 2011 to ensure the deal was done properly and fairly.

Reward this week rejected any inference its negotiations over Lake Disappointment were unfair. It said independent legal and financial advisers were involved and great care had been taken to treat the Martu people with respect.

Solar, wind hybrid energy project for Coober Pedy, helped by Australian Renewable Energy Agency

July 16, 2014

ARENA puts $18.5m to solar, wind, storage in Coober Pedy  By Giles Parkinson on 14 July 2014 

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is investing $18.5 million to help Energy Developments install a hybrid system solar, wind and storage that will take the outback town of Coober Pedy to 70 per cent renewables.

The South Australian town – famous as the former “opal capital” of the world – now relies exclusively on costly, imported diesel, and a 3.9MW diesel power station.

But the new project will look to integrate 2MW of solar PV, 3MW of wind, and a 2MW, 750kWh battery storage set up. This could account for 70 per cent of the town’s needs.


It is the second major off-grid project recently supported by ARENA, which is also investing in a 6.7MW solar plus storage installation at Rio Tinto’s Weipa refinery in far north Queensland.

The government has tried to close ARENA, and cut off new funding, but this is being resisted by the Opposition, the Greens and now the cross-bench in the Senate.

“This ambitious project may demonstrate a combined approach for powering off-grid Australian communities that currently rely solely on expensive trucked-in diesel,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.

The project will include short-term energy storage, fast start diesel engines and an advanced control system to enable smooth operation, and will be similar to the renewable energy integration project conducted by Hydro Tasmania on King Island.

“These enabling technologies have been successfully tried and tested by Hydro Tasmania  …. And this represents an opportunity to see them evolve for use on the mainland and in an outback community that has few alternative energy options,” Frischknecht said.

“Further demonstration of these technologies is expected to reduce costs over time and improve opportunities for future deployment without subsidies.

“Australia’s energy demand is growing off the grid and this landmark project will show how high penetration renewable energy projects can deliver safe, reliable power to off- grid communities.”

Energy Developments has 676MW of capacity in Australia, and 368MW of “remote” energy in 33 sites across the country. The Coober Pedy installation will be its first with significant amounts of wind and solar, but it is a model it thinks it can replicate in many other sites.

CEO Greg Pritchard said the project would help position the company to be a leader in renewable hybrid systems in the remote off grid sector.

“We see this ARENA supported project as the precursor to other renewable hybrid projects that we are keen to implement throughout Australia to meet our customer’s growing interest in these energy solutions, and to significantly displace existing diesel generation,” he said. The project is likely to be completed by 2017, depending on a final investment decision by Energy Developments.

Australia’s own Lucas Heights nuclear waste coming back – where to put it?

July 14, 2014

Australia Has Nowhere to Put Its Shipment of French Nuclear Waste VICE News, By David Wood July 13, 2014 In the second half of next year France will be sending nuclear waste to Australia for permanent storage. The waste comes from uranium and plutonium exported to France between 1999 and 2004 to run its nuclear power plants. It’s coming home because of an international agreement that states that Australia — as the nation of origin — must take the spent fuel back. This same agreement means we’ll also be taking waste back from the UK sometime before 2020.

Lucas-09The bulk of the French waste consists of unrecycled nuclear fuel mixed into molten glass to form what’s known as a durable product. This will be accompanied by six drums ofintermediate level refuse including gloves, protective clothing, and old equipment, embedded in cement. All this makes a total volume of about 13.2 cubic meters, roughly one third the size of a shipping container, with a half-life of 24,000 years.

Despite having known about this arrangement since the ’90s, Canberra now has just 17 months to build something deep, strong, and stable enough to house 14 tons of radioactive rubble. And to make matters worse, no one even knows where to put it.

In the second half of next year France will be sending nuclear waste to Australia for permanent storage. The waste comes from uranium and plutonium exported to France between 1999 and 2004 to run its nuclear power plants. It’s coming home because of an international agreement that states that Australia — as the nation of origin — must take the spent fuel back. This same agreement means we’ll also be taking waste back from the UK sometime before 2020.

The bulk of the French waste consists of unrecycled nuclear fuel mixed into molten glass to form what’s known as a durable product. This will be accompanied by six drums ofintermediate level refuse including gloves, protective clothing, and old equipment, embedded in cement. All this makes a total volume of about 13.2 cubic meters, roughly one third the size of a shipping container, with a half-life of 24,000 years.
Oscar-wastesDespite having known about this arrangement since the ’90s, Canberra now has just 17 months to build something deep, strong, and stable enough to house 14 tons of radioactive rubble. And to make matters worse, no one even knows where to put it.

The issue that brought the plan undone was that the government never properly negotiated with the land’s traditional owners. Muckaty has the overland telegraph built on it, has at times had cattle on it, as well as the Stuart Hwy across it. But for tens of thousands of years it’s belonged to the Warlmanpa Aboriginal people. That fact brought the issue to head in the Federal Court where it was eventually thrown out last month.

To celebrate, a party was thrown at Tennant Creek’s Nyinkka Nyunyu Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre for what was a reclaiming of land for its traditional custodians. During the event a 20-year old muso and Milwayi woman, Kylie Sambo, sang her song “Muckaty.”

“Don’t waste the Territory, this land means a lot to me,”she sang proudly. “Been living here for centuries. This place we call Muckaty.”

This sentiment makes sense to anyone who lives anywhere. Former NSW premier, Bob Carr, who comes from a markedly different background from Kylie, similarly resisted the waste being stored at Sydney’s Lucas Heights. “The Federal Government has got to look at locations that are remote, geologically stable, and dry,” he told Canberra back in 2005. “The optimal locations are going to be outside NSW.”

Both cases are textbook examples of the not-in-my-backyard philosophy. And as it turns out, if a long-term solution can’t be cobbled together before next December, the waste will most likely end up in Lucas Heights anyway — a fact which a whole new bunch of Sydney residents are now fighting………


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