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Australian Federal Court has dismissed climate concerns surrounding Adani's Carmichael coal mine and found the government's decision to approve the controversial project to be lawful, EDO Qld, a law firm representing Australian Conservation Foundation said in a statement on Monday.
EDO Qld challenged the lawfulness of former environment minister Greg Hunt's decision to issue an environmental approval for the project, which would be one of the world's biggest polluting coal projects, during a two-day judicial review in May 2016. EDO Qld solicitor Sean Ryan had said: "Our question was whether Australia's federal environmental laws protected our Great Barrier Reef from its most serious threat - climate change.
"We asked the court to scrutinise if the Environment Minister was required to consider the climate change impacts from the burning of coal from the Carmichael mine, and disappointingly the Federal Court answered no.
"The Court accepted that the Minister concluded that the combustion emissions from the proposed mine would have no relevant impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
"We were honoured to represent one of Australia's peak environment groups in testing whether our national environmental protection laws protect our Great Barrier Reef from its greatest threat - climate change.
"While the outcome is disappointing, it is crucial that Australians have the opportunity to question, in an independent court of law, the lawfulness of government decisions surrounding a mine project whose damaging impacts will affect us all. "We will thoroughly consider the decision and advise our client as to their legal options," the statement mentioned.
Australian Conservation Foundation first sought the independent judicial review in the Federal Court on 9 November 2015 after the federal environment minister re-issued the environmental approval for Adani's Carmichael project on 14 October 2015. This followed a Federal Court decision on 6 August 2015 to set aside the Minister's first approval of the project (granted on 28 July 2014) after he failed to consider conservation advice on vulnerable species. The judicial review ran for two days from 3 to 4 May 2016.
An Adani spokesperson said: "Adani welcomes today's decision of the Federal Court, which again reinforces the stringency of the strict, science and evidence-based federal environmental approval process governing the company's planned mine at Carmichael."
The decision closely follows the Federal Court's dismissal on August 19 of another activist-driven legal challenge designed to delay the project. Consistent with earlier decisions of Queensland's Land Court and the Federal Court affirming the company's approvals, the Federal Court has determined that due process has been followed.
"At their core, these challenges have been about stopping investment and jobs as part of a wider activist campaign against mining. A recent report by PwC quantified the cost of these delays as being some $3 billion to the economy and over 1600 jobs annually over the first ten years of the intended projects. In local communities, a state and a national economy crying out for growth, this represents a significant cost to the community, not just to Adani," she said.
These projects are to supply better quality coal for increased thermal coal demand, in conjunction with significantly increased solar demand, in a growing Indian economy that will lift hundreds of millions of people out of energy poverty.
"If the better quality, better regulated coal from Australia is not sourced in Queensland, it will simply mean lower quality, higher emitting coal from elsewhere in the world will be used. So the activists will not only harm local jobs, but if they get their way would ensure higher emissions as well," she said..
According to the Adani spokesperson the activist-driven challenges are part of a known minority campaign. While loud, they fly in the face of the strong support the company's projects have from local communities in North and Central Queensland, the tireless work with landholders, and the years of work with local councils, business and resident groups who are keen to realise the benefits of these job-creating projects.
"Over six years, there have been multiple approval processes, some two years of cumulative community consultation and submissions as part of those processes, and over ten appeals and judicial processes brought on by activists. There can be no question that there has been more than ample opportunity for consultation, input and appeal and for activists to have their say. Clearly, the time has come for the will of communities who are crying out for these projects to proceed to have their voices heard - not just those of activists from out of town," she said.
"Adani stands ready to deliver on its long term future with Queensland, pending the resolution of a small number of outstanding legal challenges. As the company has previously indicated, if those issues are finalised, construction can commence in 2017," she added. Adani welcomes today's decision in bringing that vision one step closer to fruition.
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