A group of councils, including Goulburn Mulwaree, will ask for more detail about the safety of waste to energy plants before endorsing a State move to place them in their areas.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council general manager Warwick Bennett had a zoom meeting with the mayors of Lithgow, Richmond Valley and Parkes Shire on Thursday.
It came after the state government recently released its Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan. The document identified the West Lithgow precinct, Parkes Special Activation Precinct and Southern Goulburn Mulwaree as priority areas for the technology. The latter is located around Veolia Environmental Services eco-precinct near Tarago, which already accommodates a bioreactor for Sydney's waste.
Mr Bennett said his council was not consulted before the area was identified. However he was not critical of this fact as the organisation had pushed the State to develop a waste to energy policy in light of Jerrara Power's and Veolia's proposals.
But with community angst growing over potential impacts on human and environmental health, the councils will draft questions for both the EPA and the NSW chief scientist.
"We will be asking (them) to answer those questions directly to the councils," Mr Bennett said.
He believed the community needed greater surety about emissions from the waste incineration process.
Already, Goulburn Mulwaree, in its response to state environmental requirements (SEARS) for Veolia's $600 million Woodlawn proposal, has asked that a review be undertaken of the chief scientist's 2020 waste to energy report. Mr Bennett said the world had changed since its completion and the community needed the most up to date information.
Lithgow Council was also not consulted before the Infrastructure Plan's release.
A report to its Thursday, September 27 meeting recommended that the State take no further action until council and community consultation occurred.
"This Plan, on its own, offers no apparent material benefit to Lithgow," the report stated.
In contrast, there was a benefit for communities "which did not want them in their backyard."
Staff also raised concerns that the precinct extended beyond West Lithgow's Mount Piper Power Station, where an energy recovery facility had been proposed.
"It is difficult to reconcile whether the new government position simply identifies the precinct as a site where an existing proposal can be accommodated, or whether it envisages further energy from waste proposals within the precinct," the report stated.
Tarago residents have raised the same concerns about the southern Goulburn Mulwaree precinct. Veolia's managing director and CEO Richard Kirkman believes it only covers the company's site, as does the council.
A Department of Industry, Planning and Infrastructure spokesman said the Plan did not specify how many energy from waste proposals could be made for the priority infrastructure areas.
"While it's possible multiple energy from waste facilities could be established, the Plan's infrastructure areas are limited in size and facilities would only be approved if there's enough available residual waste to power them," he said.
"Any energy from waste proposals must also comply with existing environmental and planning legislation, including NSW Environment Protection Authority controls that protect the health of humans and the environment."
The State's Waste Strategy has identified the need for one of these plants to service Greater Sydney by 2030 and another three by 2040.
While Goulburn Mulwaree and Lithgow Councils oppose the Infrastructure Plan, Richmond Valley and eight other councils are actively promoting a waste to energy plant.
"At this stage they have insufficient waste supply to make the plant cost effective and are looking to secure other waste streams," Mr Bennett said.
"Currently all of their waste is transported across the state border to Queensland. They are firmly of the opinion that a waste to energy plant attracts a much better environmental outcome than the waste going into a landfill."
But they too were reliant on the chief scientist's and EPA assurances that the technology was safe.
At Parkes, planning approvals are in place at the Special Activation Precinct to accommodate a waste to energy plant.
The Lithgow Council report stated that a draft regulation was now required to effect the State's Infrastructure Plan. The government had signalled the regulation's release for 28 days' consultation towards the end of the year.
Staff said this was not appropriate given that council elections would be held on December 4.
Mayor Ray Thompson has written to the state government asking that any further action in regard to the Lithgow precinct be deferred until effective consultation had occurred.
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