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ECCQ loses Federal Court appeal to hold Environment Minister responsible for coal mine climate impact

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Environmental group ECCQ has lost a Federal Court appeal to hold the Environment Minister legally responsible for assessing the climate impact of coal mines.
Environmental group ECCQ has lost a Federal Court appeal to hold the Environment Minister legally responsible for assessing the climate impact of coal mines.

Environmental group ECCQ has lost a Federal Court appeal to hold the Environment Minister legally responsible for assessing the climate impact of coal mines.

It’s the second time the Federal Court has ruled against the Environment Council of Central Queensland after it brought legal action against Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek last year.

The volunteer-run climate group argued Plibersek was obliged to assess the environmental risks of coal mines before approving new projects or expansions.

Background

The ECCQ claimed Plibersek had a legal duty to assess the potential climate harm of two coal mine projects that she progressed last year — the Narrabri and Mount Pleasant coal mine expansions in NSW.

They accused Plibersek of acting illegally, including a failure to consider “thousands of scientific reports” prepared by the ECCQ for the Albanese Government to investigate.

However, the Federal Court dismissed the case in October 2023.

2023 ruling

Last year’s ruling didn’t deny the impact that fossil fuel projects had on the climate or the effect global warming has on the environment.

However, it found there was no current legal obligation for the Minister to consider the climate impacts of fossil fuel projects when choosing to progress an application.

The ECCQ’s appeal failed in the Federal Court on Thursday.

ECCQ

Ashleigh Wyles, a spokesperson from the small volunteer-run climate group, said the ECCQ was “devastated” by the decision, but wasn’t “giving up”.

Wyles flagged concern the court’s ruling “will open the floodgates for the Minister to approve dozens of new coal and gas projects.”

Co-founder of Environmental Justice Australia Elizabeth McKinnon said: “Our laws are failing to keep up with the climate crisis.”

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