Centennial Coal massively increased the pollution from its Myuna and Mandalong mines without penalty.

Massive flaws in the Morrison Government’s climate change policy allowed Centennial Coal to dramatically increase pollution from its Myuna Colliery and Mandalong mines without any penalty, analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has found.

These flaws meant Centennial avoided having to buy approximately $8.3 million in carbon offset credits, pay an alternative financial penalty or more aggressively implement strategies to cut its mining pollution.

The Safeguard Mechanism sets pollution limits for large facilities like power plants, mines and refineries. If this pollution baseline is exceeded companies are required to buy carbon credits or pay a penalty. But the policy also allows companies to be granted temporary or permanent increases in their baselines under a range of loose conditions.

The analysis found in 2017-18 Centennial blew its initial baseline for Myuna by 65 per cent but avoided penalty after having its baseline immediately increased by the Clean Energy Regulator. Mandalong has also had two baseline changes in 2016-17 and 2017-18 that helped the company avoid paying for excess emissions totalling more than 300,000 tonnes.

Centennial is not the only example of a large coal miner exploiting climate policy flaws to freely increase climate pollution. Anglo American Coal used baseline changes to increase emissions at its Moranbah North mine by more than one million tonnes without penalty, saving the company $13.7 million in potential offset requirements.

The climate pollution reported at Myuna comes from mining, not burning, coal. These are known as fugitive emissions. The latest Australian greenhouse gas data recorded a 5.9 per cent rise in fugitive emissions from fossil fuel extraction and distribution in the year to March 2019.

“At the UN Prime Minister Scott Morrison said our country was taking action to stop climate pollution, but Australia’s emissions are rising and a large reason is the lack of a comprehensive national climate plan setting hard and tightening caps on pollution from large companies,” said ACF Climate Change Program Manager, Gavan McFadzean.

“Shockingly, Centennial Coal massively increased the pollution from its Myuna and Mandalong mines without penalty under the glaring flaws in the Morrison Government’s climate policy. This allowed Centennial to avoid buying approximately $8.3 million in pollution offsets and cruelled any incentive for the company to clean up its act.

“The rise in pollution from big companies like Centennial is swamping the emissions cuts the Morrison Government is buying with public money through its Climate Solutions Fund or the reductions coming from the Renewable Energy Target.

“Our national climate policies are clearly not strong enough to halt pollution or even to meet Australia’s unambitious international commitments.

“As a first step, the Government must close the loopholes Centennial has exploited and tighten safeguard pollution caps over time, as recommended by the Climate Change Authority.

“This is a bare minimum first step towards a comprehensive Australian climate change strategy that must bring down our pollution to zero by 2050 from all sectors of our economy including heavy industry, transport, energy and the land.”

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Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@mail.acf.org.au