Angelic greenwashing of water guzzling cyanide gold mine at Lake Cowal
An influential figure on environment in this state has a dirty secret (and likely many more) which dilutes the moral authority of his role, say on climate change on abc radio this morning.
Jeff Angel was once described to this writer by the national director of the The Wilderness Society Karenne Jurd in 1992 as “such a bastard”, and it took quite a few years to see where she was coming from. At the time it just seemed professional jealously. But that was a naïve view.
At the time I decided to defy Jurd and work on Angel's draft South East Forest Protection Bill by taking a temporary job in NSW Parlaiment with Clover Moore MP on the cross benches to the Fahey minority government. The job was to shepherd the SEFPB through the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry involving inter alia Kim Yeadon (later forest minister), Pam Allan (later environment minister) and Craig Knowles (later planning and health minister and heir apparent to Bob Carr before crashing out). Clover was the MP sponsor of the private members bill which played well with innner city voters given 1500 arrests on the issue in 1989-91 period.
Those were heady days with John Hatton MP down the corridor saying 'Everyday I feel like we are getting stronger', and his indefatigable staffer Arthur King famous for organised crime locking him in a car boot for 3 days who told me 'brevity is golden'.
Maybe if I had taken that meeting with Jurd I would have made some quite different decisions. The SEFPB did its job of promoting a new ALP government in 1995 and I went back to The Wilderness Society in 1993. It was Angel's project but it was his senior Milo Dunphy that I met first at TEC and respected for his kindness of spirit and great experience.
This morning on ABC radio news Angel was heard positioning as the honest broker on need for ‘politicians to behave properly’ on another alarming report this time from ‘credible, conservative, portentious’ CSIRO. More detail here:
This climate change story precedes the next big scary report of the International Panel on Climate Change due any day now
UN report turns up heat on PM
which this observer understands will likely still underplay the urgency for failure to properly factor in sea rise due to rapid glacier warming discussed more here:
Here is an image and caption from that scientific article of 12th January 2007 of the decline of ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s all downhill for ice, and up for sea rise over the next century, decade by ominous decade (also canvassed by Phillip Adams Latenight Live radio show with 3 climate scientists recently).
Figure 2: Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent in September for all seven integration of the CCSM3 with observations from satellite era shown in black.
In Australia its not ice melt, or even sea rise (including here) which is alarming people so much as change in rainfall resulting in drought.
Angel is busy exploiting that widespread concern over water sustainability too in the TEC franchise on environmentalism: He is in the lead front page story today Sydney Morning Herald about failure of the Iemma Govt to do it's own housekeeping on water conservation plans, as here:
A STRATEGY to save billions of litres of water has become so mired in bureaucracy that the State Government has approved only 15 per cent of the plans to slash usage.
All well and good. This is the core work of any public interest non government organisation.
The story by Anne Davies, a top political reporter, builds on this TEC statement involving TEC riding the publicity wave of concern on water recycling here: Government inaction cripples key program to save Sydney's water
But the question is whether TEC have an honourable history and honourable intent to deserve any profile on this issue in the first place? Sure its useful and embarrassing to expose the Iemma Govt on it's own performance and feeds into Fairfax owners' determination to oust the ALP, but rewarding TEC's director with greater influence, and typically, government funded participation in the policy responses only maintains a shallow protection racket with no real duopoly party political reform for ecological protection.
In fact the ALP get more cocky with every environmental problem that they just have to buy off Jeff Angel.
Like an alcoholic the institution of democracy gets a short term fix via aggrandisement of the TEC with its 700 odd members, but is left more tatty and unreliable than before once the hangover sets in as the money runs out and no systemic change in political power is achieved.
Protection racket? Yes, as illustrated by the following irreconcilable opportunism by Angel's TEC:
In the Lake Cowal area of central western NSW the water table has reportedly fallen 30 metres from 20 metres below ground to 50 metres, and farmers can’t reach it with their bores. It is also the place where a controversial gold mine churns through water for it’s cyanide leaching process having commenced in 2004 after political approval some 5 years earlier:
3rd Nov 06 - Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine chewing up farmers drought water, 20m water table drops to 50 m depth!
There are rumours local farmers are being paid off to keep quiet. Most independent green groups hate this mine in NSW:
Nov 06 - Alarm of independent greens over miner 'Environment Foundation' pay off to badly compromised 'peak' greens
But three ‘peak’ groups led by Jeff Angel at the Total Environment Centre found a way to participate in an ‘environmental foundation’ that suggests the mine is environmentally responsible while being paid $100,000 a year to run their green projects out of cyanide dependent gold mining profits. To quote their website:
“During the operational life of the mine, payments exceeding $2 million are expected to be made to the Lake Cowal Foundation. Although largely funded by Barrick, the Foundation also attracts external funding and works with a range of other groups and organisations.”
"The current members of the Foundation include the Total Environment Centre, National Parks Association, Nature Conservation Council and Barrick Australia Limited. The Lake Cowal Foundation is managed by a Board of Directors represented by five Directors including two environmental NGO representatives, a local landholder representing the Bland Shire Community, one independent scientist and a representative from Barrick."
It is well worth noting that this deal for mining company funds to select tame green groups was made and commenced well before the mine actually commenced around 2004. That is the pay off was in place well before the time of the mine as a fait accompli.
Indeed this author has tracked the real politik of the cyanide gold mine from the furore of bird kills at a similar mine at North Parkes on 60 Minutes, then Timbarra mine which was beaten off by green groups, and now Lake Cowal gold mine approved with green sinecures by the ALP Government under ex Premier Bob Carr:
15/3/04...The dirty Lake Cowal cyanide gold mine trust terms discussed here in 'Lake Cowal and real politik of mining decisions under Carr govt'
This dirty scandal of pay offs to greenie groups, or “duchessing” being the term used by Milo Dunphy founder of TEC in 1972 (and mentor of this writer), as hush money on a water guzzling mine to help their political mates (or conversely blackmail them for a green kiss off), is a game breaker for Jeff Angel’s compromised credibility in the lead up to the state and federal elections.
Rainforest Information Centre, The Green Party, Friends of the Earth Australia, local Traditional Owners like Chappy Williams and many others condemn the cyanide water guzzling mine but Angel’s affinity group are being financed by it indirectly. And he still presents to Big Media as “independent” and often gets away with it.
But it is a sophisticated operation this protection racket. At the same time deals are being cut to go quiet on Lake Cowal cyanide monster we have the story above, or this other issue on the Total Environment Centre website:
"New Report: longwall mining destroying NSW rivers, Thursday, 25 January 2007, Underground coal mining is resulting in major damage to the state's water resources and the Iemma Government can no longer afford to ignore the problem says a report released today by the Total Environment Centre.
A good strong conservationist line, but totally inconsistent and hypocritical compared to the Lake Cowal scandal. The two approaches are in fact irreconcilable. It is grand opportunism to keep TEC in business. Karenne Jurd was right.
This writer has followed Angel’s career at close quarters and from a distance since 1992. Milo Dunphy, it is also fair to say rejected Angel’s professional ethics. The green movement is littered with burnt and broken middle ranking green campaign experts on forests, Snowy River, Zero Waste, Olympic Games, transport and more that have been gazumped or sidelined by Angel via an inside running and back room deal making with the corrupt NSW government. I know most of them over the years. This writer is one of the burned.
Another example is the creation of the Green Games Watch with government money to buy off green groups' complaints of govt fraud in submitting in the 1993 bid documents to the International Olympic Committee that these green groups endorsed the government's 'green bid'.
Another example is juicey negotiating grant money for forest discussions with the Carr government which junked the promise to end woodchipping of natural forest by the year 2000, back to 1 million tonnes a year out of Eden chipper, in fact more than at the height of forest protests mainly organised by The Wilderness Society in 1990 with 1500 protester arrests
The model of sell out has eroded somewhat over the last year or two as the strength of the Green Party has progressed, who have no need for ALP sinecures, and factual and objective postings like this one work there way into the consciousness of fair minded observers and environmentalists alike, but the legacy of corruption of how the ALP does business is still there for all to see, evidenced by the Lake Cowal cyanide mine deal condemned by such as Ian Cohen MLC (The Greens) this writer and others.
All of this should be transparent to the environmental, political and media community.
As if to underline the point of the demise of independence of certain so called 'peak' green groups taking industry money brokered by compromised government at Lake Cowal, here is the Green Party's real and searching water reform policy going into the 2007 election:
Media Release - 30 January 2007
Greens 2007 election urban water policy (detailed policy included)
Greens MP and Upper House candidate Lee Rhiannon - launching the Greens
urban water strategy today - said the major parties have underestimated
the community's willingness to treat water as a precious commodity
and be part of the solution to drought.
"The major parties have failed to read the community mood. There has
been a welcome shift in support for water recycling, but we must not
lose sight of the enormous capacity of the public to save water and
use it more efficiently," Ms Rhiannon said.
"The major parties are scared that Sydney residents will punish them at
the ballot box if they don't promise big ticket engineering solutions,
"The Greens plan for Sydney centres on rainwater tanks, local grey
water treatment, stormwater harvesting, wastewater recycling, improved
efficiency and stronger restrictions.
"By abandoning plans to pre-emptively construct a desalination plant,
the Greens' strategy potentially saves $1.2 billion, at least half
of which can be invested in these measures.
At a glance, the Greens policy (attached) involves:
+ Doubling the current rebates on rainwater tanks and allowing
consumers to pay off the cost of tanks as part of their quarterly
water bill. This would encourage a six fold increase on uptake rate,
reduce water demand by 10 million kilolitres (10 GL) each year and
cost just $66 million. We aim for Sydney to have 250,000 water
tanks by 2011, up from the current 20,000.
+ Improving household water efficiency, including accelerated
retrofitting of households and banning water inefficient appliances.
+ Local recycling and reuse projects for industrial and commercial
premises, including on-site grey water pilot projects with the
goal of re-using most water at least three times.
+ Enhancing BASIX to ensure all new and renovated dwellings and
commercial premises are water efficient and maximise the capture
of rainwater, stormwater and wastewater.
+ Immediately introducing Level IV water restrictions, backed up by
enhanced enforcement and community education. By banning outdoor
hosing and placing stronger requirements on some businesses and
government agencies, storage levels could be safely held above
the 30% trigger for a desalination plan.
+ Financial assistance to low income households to reduce their
water demand and increase efficiency. This includes rebates on high
efficiency appliances for pension card holders.
+ Making Sydney Water a partner with households in reducing water
consumption, not just a government cash cow.
+ Abandoning plans for the desalination plant and aquifer pumping.
+ Commencing the process of closing ocean outfalls and phasing out
the environmentally disastrous pumping of water from the Shoalhaven.
"Times have changed, and the government needs to work on a permanent shift
in how we manage water.
"Our policy will see Sydney through this and subsequent water crises and
avoid the need to spend money on expensive white elephants like desalination
and aquifer pumping," Ms Rhiannon said.
For more information: Lee Rhiannon 0427 861 568
The Greens Community Water Solutions Package for Sydney
1. Emergency drought measures
The Iemma government scrapped plans to introduce level IV restrictions
when the storage levels fell to 35% in February 2006 in favour of
building the desalination plant and aquifer pumping.
With no time left to introduce other water savings measures, the Greens
- immediately introduce level IV restrictions. These would ban outdoor
hosing, further restrict the filling of swimming pools and place
tougher limits on some businesses and government agencies. They
are designed to reduce water consumption by 30%.
- back the restrictions up with enhanced compliance enforcement and
community education. Working with the community to develop
widespread confidence in compliance is important to the success
of the restrictions.
- abandon the pre-emptive plans for the desalination plant and aquifer
pumping. These are expensive and environmentally damaging. The
desalination plant could add up to 1.4% to NSW's stationary source
greenhouse gas emissions. If a 500 ML/day plant were operated
for 50% of the time, it would provide only 15% of Sydney's annual
water consumption. Sale of this water would earn about $30 million
in net revenue which is an extremely poor return on a $1.2 billion
Level IV restrictions and compliance measures are only needed because of
past failures to treat water as precious commodity. If Sydney had reduced
amount it had taken from its dams by 20% over the past five years, then
water storage would currently be at 58.5%. There would be no water crisis.
2. Preparing for the next drought
Climate change is likely to deliver Sydney a more hostile climate
with increasingly frequent and severe droughts. The lessons of the
current crisis should not be wasted.
While protecting the reliability of the water supply requires careful
planning, building expensive supply side options like desalination in
an ill-considered attempt to drought proof Sydney is likely to be an
expensive failure. Demand side options like water tanks and improved
efficiency are cheaper and more reliable. They also continue to make
economic and environmental sense even in the absence of drought.
The Greens would implement cost effective and environmentally sensitive
options to reduce Sydney's vulnerability to adverse rainfall patterns,
- banning water inefficient appliances. We would work with other state
and territory governments to develop a nation-wide ban on the sale
of appliances that unnecessarily waste water.
- the widespread use of rainwater tanks in homes, businesses and
public buildings, by increasing subsidies, removing barriers and
developing financial arrangements that allow consumers to pay off
the cost of rainwater tanks as part of their quarterly bill.
- financial assistance to low income households to reduce their water
demand and increase efficiency. This includes rebates on high
efficiency appliances for all pension card holders.
- strengthening the water component of BASIX to ensure that all new
and renovated dwellings and commercial premises are water efficient
and maximise the capture and use of rainwater, stormwater and
reuse of wastewater.
3. Making Sydney a world leader in water wisdom
In the longer term, Sydney's environment and economy can benefit
from a change in the way we think about water. The experience of
the drought and the development of new technologies mean that the
community is now is a position to break away from outmoded thinking
that treats our storages as inexhaustible and the oceans as a dump.
The Greens will work with the community to implement modern notions
of water supply and sewerage services that include:
- The grey water revolution. The Greens would urgently implement
on-site grey water pilot projects with the goal of re-using most
water at least three times. The best focus for these projects
would be on domestic uses such as clothes washing and shower
water. Separating easily re-used grey water before it is mixed
with more contaminated products, especially human and industrial
waste, will reduce the energy required to process it to potable or
near potable levels. Doing this locally will significantly reduce
transport costs and pumping energy.
- Sydney Water a water services provider, not just a water supplier.
Sydney Water is publicly owned. Last year it provided $193 million
to the state government. Sydney Water's business model means the
more water Sydney uses, the greater the short term profit that is
delivered to the NSW government. Instead of just providing water
at the meter and taking sewage at the street, Sydney Water can
become a partner with households in reducing water consumption and
overall costs. This involves changing the structure and culture
of the organisation and removing the incentives to sell more water
and make bigger dividends.
- No public private partnerships that lock Sydney into a waste-driven
future. Public Private Partnerships deliver short term capital
at the expense of long term flexibility and environmental
sustainability. Most private sector projects, such as sewer mining
and desalination proposals, have contractual requirements that
work against water efficiency and water self-sufficiency measures.
4. Expenditure and water savings
The following table describes some of the Greens' water initiatives.
The cost for each year over 2007 to 2010 and the total water savings
potential per year by 2015 have been estimated using data from the
Review of the Metropolitan Water Plan by ACIL and the Institute for
Sustainable Futures. The total cost over the four years is less then
one half of the cost of the desalination plant.
Option Additional Cost Water Savings
($million/yr) (GL/yr by 2015)
-------------------------------------------- ------ ------
Water Tanks: double the current rebate 66 10
and encouraging a six fold increase
in the uptake
Residential indoor water efficiency: 20 12
accelerated retrofitting and increased
rebates, including low income households
Residential outdoor water efficiency: 10 12
community education on water efficient
gardens and on-site landscape assessments
Local recycling and reuse programs: 20 100
developing, implementing and monitoring
household and neighbourhood grey water
reuse projects. Initially as pilot projects
leading to widespread implementation
Enhanced BASIX: increasing the requirements 20 23
on water savings in residential housing design
-------------------------------------------- ------ ------
TOTAL: 136 167
For comparison, total water consumption for Sydney between
1 July 2005 - 30 June 2006 was 528 GL.
Posted by editor
at 12:54 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007 8:11 AM EADT