Cayman Islands scheme ‘could leave Port Augusta residents in the lurch and South Australia with massive coal clean-up bill’
by Greenpeace Australia Pacific
PORT AUGUSTA, March 2, 2018 - A corporate structure including the creation of a Cayman Islands shell company could allow the former operator of Port Augusta’s power plants to avoid footing the bill to clean up coal’s dirty legacy, making it vital that the next premier of South Australia intervene.
A Greenpeace Australia Pacific report, published today, into the failed efforts to rehabilitate the power station site and ash dam reveals that the plant’s former operator, Alinta, created a new company solely to handle rehabilitating the site.
“The South Australian government appears to have allowed Alinta to set up Flinders Power to undertake a barely minimum rehabilitation, which could see them potentially run out of money before the area is fully livable and leave the state with the bill,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst said.
“Caught in the middle of this are the residents of Port Augusta who have to take to refuge indoors when clouds of coal dust roll through their town bringing sickness and despair.
“The SA Premier has let this community languish for the last year. Enough is enough. He must immediately commit to a full rehabilitation of the power plant site and justice for the people of Port Augusta.”
Greenpeace’s ‘Done and Dusted?’ report also shows that Flinders Power’s efforts to rehabilitate the Port Augusta power stations, including the 273ha (2.73 square kilometres) ash dam, have been a comprehensive failure, as evidenced by the dust events that the residents of Port Augusta have been subjected to.
The ash dam was very poorly designed and failed to take into account the geography and climate of Port Augusta. Flinders Powers’ rehabilitation plan makes the same fundamental flaws.
The current practice of spreading a thin layer of topsoil on the up to 15m deep ash dam and seeding it has failed. It also fails to address the long-term risk that salinity will cause the plants to die and dust will become a problem once again.
Despite the failure of the current plan, a new approach could solve the problem. However, the way Flinders has been set up and resourced raises the real risk that there will be no funding to do so.
This would place a potentially massive financial burden on the State government that a letter of credit, held by the South Australian Treasury may not be able to make up.
Treasury has confirmed that it holds a letter of credit from Flinders but could not confirm whether that letter of credit would be retained for the post-completion/monitoring period, which could be up to ten years.
It is valid to raise the question of who will conduct and pay for ongoing monitoring and any future rehabilitation works that may be required, especially in light of the fact that Flinders Power plans to dissolve as a corporate entity as soon as decommissioning and rehabilitation efforts are deemed “completed”.
“The people of Port Augusta have been dealing with harmful dust events for more than a year and despite lobbying and media attention they are no closer to achieving a solution now than they were a year ago,” Ms Foster Vander Elst said.
“As well as being responsible for protecting the health of its citizens the state bears a historic responsibility to Port Augusta. For the majority of the plant’s life it was state-owned and the state government allowed Alinta to spin off Flinders to protect itself from liability.
“This unacceptable situation must not continue any longer. The next premier of South Australia must commit to full and proper rehabilitation of the site, that means independently verified and in consultation with the community.”
Notes to editors:
Greenpeace Australia Pacific is currently running a crowdfunded advertising campaign with Port Augusta community members, asking South Australian party leaders to commit to full and proper remediation of the Port Augusta Northern Power Station sites.
For interviews contact:
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner
0424 295 422 / [email protected]