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King Coal wants it all his way

KING Coal is an outlaw, of the worst kind.

The coal industry is so quick to invoke the letter of the law when it comes to stopping people protesting against the worst of its destructive activities, or taking over other peoples’ lives and land. But when it wants to steal water, or rip off taxpayers or ignore the occasional court decision that somehow doesn’t go its way, the law can get stuffed.

You can quickly and easily make a long list of shocking examples of coal companies in Australia behaving with disregard for the law. But even so, sometimes I’m still amazed by what some of them do.

Take the poster child of bad coal in Australia – Adani. In this past week this shocker of a global corporate citizen – this darling of both of our decrepit and crapulous major political parties – has made a few headlines worth reading.

Exploitative and dishonest

For a start, the Queensland Supreme Court ordered Adani to pay more than $100million to four other coal companies that used Adani’s Abbot Point terminal in the state’s north. “Not reasonable”, “exploitative” and “dishonest” were some of the words used about Adani’s business practices as demonstrated in the case before the court. Basically, Adani was trying to rip off the other companies, using the commercial clout given to it by the government which granted it a 99-year lease over the controversial environmentally damaging coal terminal.

If you’ve watched Adani with any level of attention for any period of time, this would not surprise you. It is a company with a bad track record. But it doesn’t like people pointing out its bad behaviour. This week it was also revealed that Adani had tried to use the legal system, secretly, to get a search order against one of its critics, environmentalist Ben Pennings. The company went behind Penning’s back and applied for permission to enter Pennings’s home and seize documents and computer equipment. 

The court said no, so Adani – again without telling Mr Pennings anything – appealed to a higher court. The appeal court also said no, which may have amazed a company that seems to have both the federal and Queensland governments firmly in its pocket. Thank goodness Australia’s courts are capable of independence from political influence.

Not surprisingly, Adani is still pursuing Mr Pennings through other legal avenues, alleging that his protest activities have damaged it.

Flick back to February this year and Adani was fined (a piddling $20,000) for providing false information to Queensland’s environmental regulator. Adani claimed it cleared no land on its proposed Carmichael mine site in the 2017-2018 year. After it made the false claim it was dobbed in by conservationists who pointed out it had done plenty of clearing. This forced the government to take a peek and find out the truth. Adani claimed its was just an administrative error, amending its false statement to acknowledge it had actually cleared 132 hectares, including 5.8 hectares during the reporting period.

False information

Like other coal companies that get a clear run from governments eager to throw all environmental and social considerations out the window to help get mines approved no matter what the cost,  Adani is happy to accept all the favours, but gets mightily offended at any little speedbump that slows down the easy ride.

If you’ve been watching King Coal recently you will have seen how Adani’s astoundingly thirsty water plan – which will suck up 12.5billion litres a year to wash coal and suppress dust – has been waved through by the Morrison Government, not once but twice. (The first approval was set aside when the government was forced to admit that it should have at least paid a teensy bit of attention to the thousands of objections to the plan.)

You will have read how Peabody Energy got amazing approval from the Berejiklian NSW Liberal Government to mine under Sydney’s Woronora Reservoir. This is despite past bad experiences where subsidence has severely damaged water catchments, streams and rivers. And even when more than 10,000 people signed a petition against the approval, the Parliament didn’t bother sitting to consider it.

You will have read how Centennial Coal managed to accidentally understate carbon emissions from its Angus Place mine extension near Lithgow by a factor of 30, apparently without any penalty.

You will have read how the Korean Government’s Kepco corporation, which is hoping to mine in the precious Bylong Valley of NSW, received an astonishing rejection at the hands of the Independent Planning Commission, which went against the recommendation of the government’s always fervently pro-coal Planning Department, but is refusing to accept the umpire’s decision and is dragging the case to appeal.

That’s King Coal for you: he loves the law when it’s against his opponents, but can’t stand it if it ever looks like getting in his way.

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