Planning commission finds ‘uncertainty’ around the massive project’s emissions
— A plan for a massive waste-to-energy incinerator in western Sydney has been blocked, after the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission ruled there was “uncertainty” over human health and environmental impacts.
The plant – the largest planned in the southern hemisphere – would have burned 552,500 tonnes of waste every year, generating enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.
But the Next Generation proposal, put forward by Ian Malouf’s Dial A Dump Industries at land he owns near Eastern Creek, met with objections from residents, councils and health and environment authorities, who were concerned about its impact on air quality in the Sydney basin.
The state-significant development application was referred to the commission for determination in April after the NSW department of planning and environment received 949 public objections.
The commission’s chair, Prof Mary O’Kane, appointed a three-member panel that after public consultation refused consent for the project.
In its report, released on Thursday, the commission said the key issue in considering the project was “the uncertainty around the project’s emissions and the results of the applicant’s predicted modelling”.
“Given this uncertainty, the commission finds that it is unable to determine the project’s impacts on the locality and has persuaded the commission to adopt a precautionary approach to the consideration and determination of the project’s impacts on air quality and human health.”
Malouf had said his ambitious plan offered “a sophisticated and environmentally responsible clean-energy-from-waste facility”.
He warned that Sydney now faced a looming landfill crisis.
Among the main concerns of the commission was that the data used in the company’s modelling was not representative of the actual waste streams that would be used in the incinerator.
It also found there was insufficient evidence that the pollution control technologies would be capable of appropriately managing emissions from the project, and that there was uncertainty in relation to air and water quality.
Dial A Dump Industries has argued that the project offered a solution to both the landfill and energy problems.
Incinerators are used in parts of Europe to deal with waste. The company argued that the technology and filtration systems had been demonstrated to work to protect air quality.
But residents argued that this plant was much bigger than those in Europe and its location in the highly populated Sydney basin was inappropriate and posed health risks.
Next Generation said it accepted the decision but warned the NSW government of a looming crisis in Sydney’s waste management.
“More than 400 facilities across 35 countries are now using the same thermal technology, which is tried and proven to be a safe and efficient way to generate power,” Malouf said.
“However the [commission] has chosen to accept the ill-placed concerns of the EPA [Environment Protection Authority] and other government authorities.”
The commission held meetings with the applicant and council departments, and a public meeting at nearby Rooty Hill.
Residents’ concerns centred on potential health impacts, the size and scale of the proposed facility, and the suitability of the site, particularly its proximity to residential areas, schools and playing fields.
The state’s department of health and the office of environment had also expressed concerns.
On Thursday, the member for Mulgoa, Tanya Davies, welcomed the decision to reject the proposed facility.
“Today the people of western Sydney have won the fight,” she said. “From the start we have made it clear that we did not want an incinerator at Eastern Creek.
“The risks were just too great. The facility was just too big. There were no adequate guarantees to ensure the health and safety of people in western Sydney.”
by Anne Davis | The Guardian