South Korean energy giant KEPCO is arguing its case in the Court of Appeals in another step its hoping will lead to a reversal of the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) ruling which effectively put an end to its Bylong Valley coal project.
In September 2019, the coal project was refused development consent, citing concerns about long-lasting environmental, agricultural and heritage impacts.
When KEPCO first went to court in, it argued the commission did not properly consider a number of environmental impacts, did not follow the correct procedures and that it was denied procedural fairness. This time around they are directly appealing the IPC ruling.
Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), local group, the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance (BVPA) will argue the IPC was right when it rejected the coal mine based on the harm it would inflict on the region's high-value agricultural soils, the valley's water, and the greenhouse gases it would produce.
BVPA president Phillip Kennedy said KEPCO's repeated attempts to force its coal mine onto the people of Bylong was in stark contradiction to the South Korean Government's commitments to reducing carbon emissions.
"The South Korean Government spruiks its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees on the world stage by reducing emissions. KEPCO needs to back that up by ditching its plans to dig up beautiful agricultural country for coal," he said.
"Just let us keep farming.
"We need to keep producing beef, lamb, wool, grain, and cereal. Australia needs Bylong to remain the way it is - untouched."
Phillip is one of the remaining few farmers left in the Bylong area, having called Bylong home for roughly two and a half years after moving from Nyngan. Phillip runs a mixed agricultural enterprise, mostly made up of cattle, lambs, hay and grain.
"Hopefully we'll have one [a decision] this year," Phillip said.
"We're actually, we're the ones defending the case. If it wasn't for the BVPA, there'd be no challenge in court, so the BVPA heads the challenge with the fantastic support legal support of the EDO."
Phillip said their work with the EDO is on a 'no win, no pay' agreement. But admitted any ruling that would incur costs would mean the effective end of the BVPA.
"If if in the event of will we lost, KEPCO would would probably be awarded the costs against us. We would probably just began to have to become insolvent or something like that. Because we don't own any assets," Phillip said.
The Korean Government-backed energy company paid the NSW Government more than $400 million for a Bylong coal mining licence in 2010.
In August last year, the Land and Environment Court has reserved judgment following a judicial review of the IPC's rejection of the thermal coal mine and in December the Land and Environment Court dismissed an appeal brought by KEPCO on the 2019 decision.
The IPC ruling at the time prompted Mid-Western Regional Council Mayor Des Kennedy to pen an op-ed in September 2019 calling for an 'end to the uncertainty'.
"The project proposed by KEPCO provides our communities with a 25-year pipeline of jobs and long-term economic and social benefits," Cr Kennedy said at the time.
"The closure of the Kandos Cement Works, the Charbon mine, quarry and all those other businesses which supplied these major operations have forced locals to look elsewhere."
KEPCO proposed to run the open cut and underground mine complex for 25 years and mine up to 6.5 million tonnes of coal per year for use in the domestic Korean energy market.
In 2019 the South Korean Government put a question mark under the strategic case for the mine proposal with new plans to significantly cut coal-fired power use over the next two decades because of serious air pollution concerns and to reduce carbon emissions.
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