A company sounding out opportunities to establish a waste to energy plant in Goulburn Mulwaree has been given short shrift.
Eco2 Limited principal Mark Shepherd wrote to the council requesting its "high-level thoughts" on such facilities. The company also suggested it could be located at Goulburn's waste management centre, given its established infrastructure and the opportunity for minimal truck movements.
"However we are also looking at other sites," Mr Shepherd wrote.
The reply was swift and came on the back of the council's strong opposition to Jerrara Power's waste to energy proposal for Bungonia.
"I can advise you that this council is vigorously opposed to waste to energy plants until such time as the government develops a statewide policy that gives the community confidence and guarantee that such a facility will have no harmful effects to human, animal, soil and biodiversity life," general manager Warwick Bennett wrote.
"Further, (the) council believes that if this confidence and guarantee was given, then no more than one plant be established in each local government area. If these plants are so clean and great..why can't they be developed at the source of the waste - in this case, I presume Sydney?"
With two applications already on the books - Jerrara Power's and Veolia Environmental Services' at Woodlawn, Mr Bennett said Eco2 Limited could expect "vigorous opposition" to any additional ones.
"I can see no point in meeting to discuss this proposal as this council's policy and opposition to waste to energy plants is explicitly clear," Mr Bennett stated.
Speaking to The Post, the GMwas more blunt.
"We want people to get the message that we are not Sydney's bloody dumping ground," he said.
But Mr Shepherd told The Post he wasn't aware of the other proposals and the reasons behind the council's stance. He said the UK-based company wasn't considering a project on the same scale but instead hoped to process waste principally from a council area and its surrounds.
"Goulburn Mulwaree Council has made its view plain...and we won't be pursuing it," he said.
"I think there are places that are more open to it but no matter where it goes, you have to bring the community with you."
Rural areas lure renewable ventures
Eco2 Limited is a renewable energy developer and has interests in waste biomass power stations, wind and solar plants and anaerobic digestion. Mr Shepherd said the company was in the process of assembling the commercial components of a "bankable" municipal waste to energy plant in Australia.
He acknowledged rural areas were more attractive due to land costs and access to resources, like labour.
"Given the level of community concern about these projects, and there's no doubt it is a heavy industry equivalent to a power station, our thinking is we're better off being as far away from people (population centres) as possible," Mr Shepherd said.
He cited strong community opposition severl years ago to an Eastern Creek waste to energy plant proposed in close proximity to homes as a key reason for its eventual refusal.
As to the most suitable zoning, Mr Shepherd said it it was difficult to say as industrial areas could also be located close to residents.
"You are better off being further away from populations and that dictates going to RU2 zones. Whether a rezoning is required, I'm not sure," he said.
"I don't think heavy industry like waste to energy plants are incompatible with rural zones but other factors like community concern can drive you out."
The council has challenged state planners over the zoning at Bungonia. Jerrara Power has applied to build a 330 megawatt plant at 974 Jerrara Road on land zoned RU2. It has sparked community outrage and the council has argued to the state's planning department that the development is not permitted in the zone.
The department has now said it would treat the proposal as an 'electricity generating development' rather than a waste facility and maintained it was allowed under the LEP. The stance has angered the council, with Mr Bennett accusing officials of creating a "permissability pathway" for the project and incorrectly defining its purpose.
Council planners define it as a 'hazardous and offensive industry.' The organisation has also threatened legal challenge if the State issues secretary's environmental requirements (SEARS) to Jerrara Power.
Despite expectations they would be issued last week, nothing has been forthcoming.
Mr Bennett said on Wednesday he hoped the department was considering the council's legal arguments but he'd not heard anything more.
While Mr Shepherd understood the concerns of communities within close proximity, he told The Post this was less the case in Europe. He noted waste to energy plants located in urban areas of Paris and Copenhagen.
He believed the technology had also addressed community fears about hazardous emissions.
"The impacts are well and truly controlled as long as it is run properly. The European plants are demonstrating this," he said.
The company principal anticipated greater demand for the plants in rural Australia given the price of urban land and the challenges of managing landfills.
In Europe, Eco2 Limited has built straw-fired power stations with the fuel sourced from farmers.
Mr Shepherd said the company was looking to do something similar in Australia.
As for future opportunities in Goulburn Mulwaree, he said if one presented itself, Eco2 Limited would consider it.
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