Alan Brady has followed Jerrara Power's project since the beginning.
But the qualified chemical engineer and Bungonia resident said he'd never experienced such rage as late last week when the state's planning department declared it would assess the $600 million project as an 'electricity generating work', rather than 'waste management.'
Mr Brady says the department is creating a permissability pathway that is at odds with Jerrara Power's characterisation of its waste to energy project, proposed for 974 Jerrara Road, Bungonia. It will process up to 330,000 tonnes of waste and generate 30 megawatts of power annually.
"The reaction (to this decision) has been nothing short of white hot anger," Mr Brady said.
"People are aghast that a planning authority that's supposed to be protecting us is acting in such an egregious manner that seems to be favouring Jerrara Power.
"There is no way this can be characterised as electricity generating over a waste management facility and there's not one person who isn't dumbfounded by that characterisation."
Goulburn Mulwaree Council general manager Warwick Bennett has also described the decision as an "insult" to the community and council.
The council opposed the department's issuing of secretary's environmental requirements (SEARS) for the state significant proposal. It argued the project was nothing more than waste incineration, which was not permitted in the RU2 rural zone. Mr Bennett said with just 30 per cent of the company's income to be derived from electricity, and the rest from waste, it was "wrong" to define it as 'power generating.'
Mr Brady also says the definition is contrary to all the waste legislative controls on which the company is relying to 'keep the community safe' from the incinerator.
Mr Bennett says all legal avenues are exhausted at this stage to prevent SEARS being issued but the council will vigorously fight its legal permissability at the EIS stage.
Members of the Jerrara Action Group, the Bungonia Progress Association, Southern Highlands Progress Association and the wider community are also rallying. The Bungonia Association has formed a sub-committee to fight the plan.
Mr Brady said more than 40 letters had been sent to the department, protesting the decision.
"We have two options; to take it on the chin and fight its permissability over the next two years at great emotional cost and council expense or ask the department to do what is morally right by the community and not issue SEARS," he said.
"The right thing to do is characterise it as hazardous and offensive industry (which is not allowed in the rural zone)."
Mr Brady maintained the onus should be on Jerrara Power to prove it was an electricity generating development. He cited previous public statements by the company's managing director Chris Berkefeld that the project was a waste rather than electricity solution.
However Jerrara Power relied on both definitions as a permissability avenue in its scoping study, lodged last month with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
Mr Berkefeld said the department chose the electricity generating definition and neither he nor his consultants lobbied officials over the matter.
"The meetings with the department are very structured and disciplined. We just offered the scoping report and said nothing more," he told The Post.
He declined comment on the characterisation, saying it was the state's decision. But he said legal advice had confirmed the project would pass the 'electricity generating' test. The plant is designed to convert waste to energy at high temperature and power 45,000 homes via a transmission line to Goulburn.
Mr Berkefeld said he was surprised the issue had come to the fore.
"In some places these plants are considered very valuable," he said.
"If you take out the community objections, there are lots of other people who think this project has merit."
He cited a group of southern Sydney councils that would this year release a tender for an energy solution for up to 94,000 tonnes annually.
"That volume will only increase," he said.
Four other companies in NSW were proposing similar plants .
Mr Berkefeld said he saw no legal reason why the SEARS shouldn't be released this week and looked forward to addressing what he anticipated would be comprehensive requirements. He said the company would meet and exceed government policy settings on waste to energy plants.
The company is advertising expressions of interest for membership of a community consultative committee. This will be chaired by former Upper Lachlan Shire Council general manager, John Bell.
Meantime, a DPIE spokeswoman said the project's classification did not change the way it would be assessed as both waste management and electricity generating works were permitted with consent in the RU2 zone.
The Infrastructure State Environmental Planning Policystates that electricity generating works means a building or place used for the purpose of making or generating electricity, or electricity storage.
She said the department "assessed all proposals on their merits based on rules enshrined in legislation, expert advice and community feedback."
"This proposal is only in the early stages of the process. No assessment has been undertaken to determine (its) merits.
"The department will apply stringent requirements to this project regardless of its classification," she said.
"The department is currently preparing requirements that the proponent must satisfy in its environmental impact statement. As part of this, (we will) require a detailed hazard analysis to be prepared.
"The community will be provided with plenty of opportunity to have its say and the proponent must respond to all the issues raised in public submissions."
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