Discussion about a proposed Energy from Waste (EfW) facility at the Old Wallerawang Power Station has continued to heat up.
Sections of the Lithgow community and a handful of councillors remain up in arms over a proposed Energy from Waste (EfW) facility at the Old Wallerawang Power Station after Tuesday night's Ordinary Council meeting.
If approved, the EfW facility would utilise rail from Sydney to transport waste over the mountains to be burned at the site owned by Greenspot, west of Lithgow, that would generate electricity.
A packed public gallery filled with concerned residents were keen to listen in on whether a rescission motion on Council's submission to explore the idea of a waste incinerator would be put through.
If you do not rescind this, the contempt you have held this community in the past few months will pale into insignificance with the contempt that some of you will be held in for the next three years.GLCAG Ann Thompson
One such citizen, Cameron Churchill stood up and spoke on the matter, saying there was "too much on the line and so much at stake".
"Given the magnitude of what is at stake here I think it's only prudent we accept the rescission motion," he said.
"I applaud Greenspot for opening the battery and I applaud Greenspot for looking to develop in our region but there is so much more to do than burning Sydney's garbage."
The Greater Lithgow Community Action Group's (GLCAG) Ann Thompson also asked council to rescind the motion and warned of potential backlash in their decision making.
"If you do not rescind this, the contempt you have held this community in the past few months will pale into insignificance with the contempt that some of you will be held in for the next three years," she said.
The Lidsdale Wallerawang Progress Association's (LWPA) Steve Jackson said the LGA had lost so much already with previous mine and power station closures.
"We go through this over and over and let it happen. But you can be the council in years to come that are the people that turned us around and not the people that stopped us again," he said.
He urged Lithgow Council to be "saviours" and encouraged residents to go along to Greenspot's community consultation nights and "learn and ask questions".
"Ask Greenspot and their associated companies on how it works, listen to them. Make sure it is not unhealthy, make sure it finds the jobs and puts money back into this town and not shut down something else again," he said.
"There are 32 places in Lithgow where you can buy a coffee, but you won't find 32 places where you can get an apprenticeship, so please do not rescind that motion, keep backing it and if it isn't going to be clean or benefit our area then make that decision, but do not do that tonight," he said.
Deputy mayor Cassandra Coleman, Cr Stephen Lesslie and Cr Eric Mahony put the rescission motion forward to attempt to overturn the motion, moved by Cr Darryl Goodwin and seconded by Cr Almudena Bryce, to allow Greenspot the opportunity to explore the idea for a precinct at Wallerawang.
To their disappointment, the rescission motion was defeated 6-3 with mayor Maree Statham, Cr Goodwin, Cr Deanna Goodsell, Cr Bryce, Cr Col O'Connor and Cr Stuart McGhie all in favour of continuing to explore the idea.
There are 32 places in Lithgow where you can buy a coffee, but you won't find 32 places where you can get an apprenticeship.LWPA member Steve Jackson
"I thought maybe one or two councillors would swing. I was hoping people would change their mind with [the] public coming to talk and the amount of people in the gallery but they stuck to their guns, they provided the outcomes I expected," Cr Coleman said.
Cr Goodsell said she understood the anger and concerns of residents and wanted to make it clear she heard them.
"You're angry, disappointed, but just because I don't agree to oppose this proposal outright doesn't mean I don't understand, I respect your opinions," she said.
"I have concerns as does Council which is reflected in the recommendation to ask for more information about this proposal."
Cr Goodsell said she couldn't oppose the proposal outright on behalf of 21,000 residents without knowing all the facts.
"How can I possibly oppose this proposal outright on behalf of every resident when the facts, benefits and impacts of this proposal only are not yet known?"
"If this proposal doesn't comply with the rigorous environmental impact process I'll be the first to say it's not for our community, if it does it could be the beginning of an exciting future for the LGA," she said.
A majority of the public gallery were upset by the decision with one attendee yelling "f*ck council".
"The public were outraged by the decision to the point where the councillors called a recess of the meeting, I tried to calm the crowd and to make a point to think about other ways to deal with this," Cr Coleman said.
"At the end of the day it is a state significant project so Toole is the only one who can squash it or not squash it," she said.
A concerned community
Over 60 concerned Lithgow and Wallerawang residents took to the street on April 19 where they participated in an organised protest at the Lithgow Council chambers.
The GLCAG group were a key starter behind the conversation and wanted answers.
Ms Thompson said the protest was to demand accountability from council after their decision to not oppose the inclusion of the Wallerawang site and that Council no longer had a blanket opposition to inclusion in the infrastructure plan and draft regulation.
At the end of the day it is a state significant project so Toole is the only one who can squash it or not squash it.Deputy mayor Cr Cassandra Coleman
"Lithgow is a town with a lot of offer. We elected this council on the promise our home would not become the site of this incinerator," Ms Thompson said.
"We feel powerless and democracy has let us down. With no clear economic benefits for our people, and a disincentive for tourism, we need the council to take accountability for their actions," she said.
Ms Thompson called on Council to host a public community meeting when she spoke at the April meeting.
"If you as Councillors believe in what you are doing and it is right then you should have no trouble whatsoever addressing the public and letting the public ask questions and have their say," she said.
The GLCAG will host a community meeting on May 3 at the Wallerawang Community and Sports Club at 6.30pm.
The group invites councillors, Federal candidates for the seat of Calare, Paul Toole and concerned citizens along.
A differed stance
In the Friday, April 8 edition of the Lithgow Mercury, Cr Coleman, Cr Eric Mahony and Cr Stephen Lesslie expressed their opposed stance on the proposed project.
Blaming community backlash, a majority of councillors chose not to respond to enquiries asked by theLithgow Mercury.
While the Council hold a differed stance on the idea, despite their opinions, they have no bearing on the ultimate decision which lies with the state government.
However in a previous statement Cr Statham said Lithgow was at a cross-road in terms of its future.
"My vision for Lithgow in the future is of a city that is rich with jobs and a place of attraction, perhaps akin to Geelong or Newcastle today.
"They [cities] said yes to fresh approaches to transitioning their city to be ready for the future, before shutting the door on opportunity by saying no," she said.
Since Council voted to give its support to Greenspot to explore the opportunity for a precinct, there has been concerns raised among the community on why that decision was made.
"Some in the community are questioning this decision and have cemented their position of opposition. I respectfully encourage those people to hear, consider and weigh up the arguments, both for and against, as the Council did in taking its decision," Cr Statham said in her statement.
The Old Wallerawang Power Station site has plans to be a multi-precinct hub with the EfW facility being one piece of the proposed puzzle.
"The overall proposal is best described as a circular economy and sustainable energy business precinct. It would involve an investment of more than $1.5 billion, at least 1,500 jobs during construction across various projects and close to 800 long term jobs," Cr Statham stated.
And jobs in the community are what people want, according to Councillor Goodwin.
"Over my time on council I have heard a relentless call for more jobs in the community, jobs, jobs, jobs we need jobs and I totally agree. I said in my campaign that is what I would advocate for and that is what I am committed to do," he said.
Cr Goodwin said there had been a large amount of jobs lost with the closure of the Wallerawang Power Station in 2014.
"Not too long ago I could drive down the Main Street of town and every one of the eight pubs and three clubs were busy.
"Now I drive down the street and none of the now three pubs and two clubs have large amounts of people in them and they are rarely busy. Why? It is because we have lost large amounts of jobs with the closure of Wallerawang Power Station, shutdowns of mines and the rail industry slowly being taken away from the area," he said.
"Businesses are hurting and the towns are hurting."
Cr Goodwin said he had always been open minded to new industries coming to town and the EfW proposal was no different.
"My decision as I have always said will be measured and based on factual information that I will get from experts and not google or Facebook," he said.
I do not want to see projects of this scale slip through our fingers before we even see the detail.Cr Darryl Goodwin
Cr Goodwin believes Council made the correct decision to support the EfW precinct to be explored by Greenspot.
"Greenspot can lobby the Government to extend the footprint with council support. There are many steps to go after this if the Government sees fit to extend, however if the Government does not grant the extension the matter will be dead in the water," he said.
"I do not want to see projects of this scale slip through our fingers before we even see the detail."
He said the economic benefits to flow from this type of project would be long lasting and generational.
"As I travel through the community people are telling me that we need this facility as this industry will bring jobs, employment security and will ensure our economic future," he said.
Cr Goodwin made a point in saying EfW facilities were all over the world and the EPA wouldn't approve something that doesn't meet the required standards.
"Most of us have lived near two coal fired power stations for most of our lives that are exponentially worse than a facility of this nature. We need to embrace the new and have an open mind about it potential," he said.
While there have been community consultation nights held by Greenspot to address community concerns the conversation remains unresolved for residents who want more answers.
Greenspot CEO Brett Hawkins said there had been key topics of interest to community members such as emissions, water and transport.
He said an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), was a required part of a formal proposal process and would include air quality modeling to project the exact emissions and levels.
"Water would likely come from Coxs River, Fish River or treated mining water. This would be determined during an EIS phase," Mr Hawkins said.
"Water would not leave the facility except in the form of steam released from the stack. Therefore, there is no concern about pollution of nearby water sources," he said.
He said 80 to 90 per cent of the transport needs would be met by sealed containers delivered directly into the site via rail.
"Trucks would only be used where train is impractical such as delivering red bin waste from Lithgow area residents to the facility,' he said.
Mr Hawkins said a common question from the community was 'Why Wallerawang? and why not Sydney?'.
"The NSW government has chosen four precincts Parkes, Richmond Valley, Southern Goulburn Mulwaree and West Lithgow/Wallerawang, because existing infrastructure is available to support EfW technology, and they are locations that have been prioritised for economic and workforce development," he responded.
"Wallerawang is an especially unique and promising site because it has a range of what Greenspot calls core enablers," he said.
Our interest is in engaging community members early and often - well before an actual proposal is submitted.Greenspot CEO Brett Hawkins
Those core enablers are energy generation and storage, water security, transport networks and digital connectivity.
Mr Hawkins said community members had also asked specific and highly technical questions such as the height of the proposed stack and the exact pollutants released.
"These are the types of questions to be addressed in the EIS, which would not be undertaken at such a preliminary stage," he said.
"It occurs as part of the formal proposal process. Our interest is in engaging community members early and often - well before an actual proposal is submitted," he said.
"While this could sometimes mean we don't yet have the specific answers people seek, involving the greater Lithgow community at the earliest stages is our highest priority."
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