The Hume Coal project in the Southern Highlands has failed to gain the support of the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) for the second time.
The final response of the the DPE was highlighted on its website in a report and accompanying letter from group deputy secretary planning and assessment Marcus Ray to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) chair on May 8.
Mr Ray's said in the letter that the department "considers that the project is not in the public interest and recommends that the commission refuses to grant consent."
He continued that "the department does not accept that the residual risks can be managed through post-approval conditions of consent, given the potential impacts and uncertainties."
The news has been welcomed by Battle for Berrima which has long campaigned against the project which it believes "simply doesn't have the community's social license and there remain too many uncertainties about the project."
Mr Ray reiterated in his letter to the IPC the processes that had taken place over more than three years which led to the department's latest decision.
He said that during exhibition of the project, the department received more than 50 unique public submissions objecting to it.
He continued that in December 2018, the then Minister for Planning requested the IPC hold a public hearing into the project and prepare a report summarising its findings.
"The DPE referred its preliminary assessment of the project to the IPC, concluding that the project would not be in the public interest and should not be approved.
"Following a public hearing in May 2019 the IPC published its report which made a number of recommendations seeking a range of additional information to enable it to reach a position on the merits of the project.
"In April 2020, Hume Coal provided its response to the commission's report."
At that time Hume Coal project director Greig Duncan told the Southern Highland News that the mining company's responses addressed the many recommendations for additional information requested by the IPC in particular, where Independent Experts were recommended to review certain aspects of the project.
Mr Ray said the department had since undertaken additional consultation with key government agencies and independent experts and finalised its assessment of the project.
The latest report concluded that the Department had assessed the development applications, EIS, submissions and expert advice on the project, Hume Coal's responses to these submissions, the Commission's Report, and Hume Coal's responses to the Commission's Report, in accordance with the requirements of the EP&A Act, including the objects of the Act and the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
It continued that "based on this assessment, the Department is not satisfied that the project achieves a reasonable balance between recovering a recognised coal resource of state significance and minimising the potential impacts on the environment and surrounding land users as far as practicable."
Battle for Berrima reaffirmed its stance that the project was not in the public interest.
Battle for Berrima president Hugh Farrimond said the project was strongly opposed by locals, the broader community, and through 97 per cent of the 5000-plus submissions the IPC received.
"The Department of Planning and Environment's view hasn't changed. It finds that the site chosen for the Hume Coal Project is unsuitable, that the project is not in the public interest, and that the IPC should refuse to grant approval," he said.
"Battle for Berrima welcomes the department's final environment assessment, in particular its view that the Hume Coal Project would have significant impacts on a highly productive groundwater aquifer, including drawdown impacts on up to 118 registered privately-owned bores.
"The department considers that Hume Coal's proposed make-good arrangements for water are not suitable or practical, would cause substantial disruption to the local community, would be highly likely to cause huge disagreement between Hume Coal and landowners about the impacts, and that this would cause extensive time delays, creating ongoing disruption and uncertainty for the community."
The DPE report will now be considered by the IPC of NSW for a final environmental assessment of the Hume Coal Project.
Hume Coal has been contacted for comment.
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