MAYOR PETER CAIRNEY
10 DECEMBER 2001
PROPOSED WOOD PROCESSING AND METALLURGICAL CARBON FACILITY
The council considered the Environmental Impact Statement that has been submitted with the Development Application at a Special Meeting held this week, on Monday 10 December.
The council is also holding a Special Public Meeting to gauge the views of the community on the proposed development this Sunday 16 December at 2pm at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club auditorium.
In the interest of the public being well informed, the council presents the following information.
Council considers staff report on EIS
At a Special Meeting of Council held on Monday 10 December 2001, Council received a report from Staff presenting their professional views on the adequacy and voracity of the EIS submitted to the NSW Department of Urban Affairs & Planning for a proposed wood processing and metallurgical carbon facility at Lot 544 DP 736015 Parish of Tomaga. The following statement is the conclusion of that report generally finding the EIS had several shortcomings in the extent of investigations conducted to examine environmental, economic and social consequences should the proposed development proceed.
Councillors will be hearing the community’s views at a public meeting on 16 December 2001 at 2:00 pm at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club Auditorium. Those comments, together with the public comments incorporated already into Council’s submission will be presented to Department of Urban Affairs & Planning at the close of exhibition on 21 December 2001.
Since the public announcement of the proposal in July, community emotion has been polarised. Naturally there have been concerns by neighbours to the proposed site, and those who believe their lifestyle, health, property values and business may be effected. Equally there has been broader community concerns with the impacts of the proposed development on the environment, on tourism and on traffic.
There appears to have been confusion over the legal status and certainty of supply within the Southern RFA. Similarly the quality and accuracy of information and community consultation conducted by the proponents has been questioned. There continues to be confusion, regardless of council efforts to clarify, over the role of council in the approval process. Councillors had been regularly briefed in confidence, at the request of the proponents, on issues or status of the proposal prior to lodging the DA and EIS with DUAP.
This report has relied upon the data and assurances provided by State Forests regarding the nature and long term availability of residue forest product for the charcoal facility. Without entering any discussion on the RFA, it is noted this project is an effort to ‘value-add’ to timber operations and products in an industry identified as requiring structural and innovative change through the recent work of the Timber Value Added Industry Officer engaged by Council under a grant. The proposal appears to attract options for ‘carbon credits’ under State credit guidelines.
It is considered any opposition to the facility simply on the basis it involves the removal of 200,000 tones per annum from State Forest would be difficult for the consent authority to introduce as a ground for refusal.
The degree to which the proposal satisfies community goals, say in terms of best use of forest resources or appropriate location of industry, was also the subject of the RFA and is outside the scope of this report. There is some conjecture as to the timing of the NSW Southern Forest Agreement and the content and auditing options of the associated Integrated Forestry Operation Agreement as is it relates to this proposal.
The proposal for the wood processing metallurgical and carbon facility indicates it will be a significant employment generator with flow on effects to the regional economy. It would be designed to, and conditioned to, comply with EPA and other agency standards and represents an important cog in a State Significant Development involving quarry at Cowra and a Silicon smelter at Lithgow.
Some public comment has been made on the reduction of hazard and waste timber burning by State Forests (the subject of regular smoke complaints), reduced bush fire hazard and improved water run off into catchments.
Similarly, there has been supportive comment on job creation and diversification of the local economy.
Should an extension be granted to the exhibition period, Council may wish to use the advice of the Scientific Advisory Group to assist assessment of this EIS. However, on this occasion as some member/s of that Group assisted in the Charcoalition submission, it was considered not appropriate to take that option at this time.
A schedule of summary points from the above discussion will be displayed at the public meeting.
However, the review by staff of Part B-D of the EIS have raised a number of concerns, either in terms of lack of information, clarity of information or errors and omissions. In summary, the following concerns have been raised under the headings contained in the EIS:
Council understands it is likely to receive from DUAP a copy of all the submissions received by the Department, to offer the opportunity to Council to provide further comment on the EIS. However, it is quite likely that given the gaps in information provided in the EIS, or matters requiring further research or clarification, that the State Government may request a supplementary EIS should the development wish to proceed. Council and the public will then be given the same opportunity to comment during another exhibition period on the other information contained in a supplementary EIS should it be requested by DUAP.
Submission by council to state government
The council will make a submission to the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and will include the following issues.
- Considered the application may not form a proper Development Application, (Clause 50 Part 1 Schedule 1)
- May require a SEPP 1 objection to vary the 14m height limit for structures other than the retorts
- Inadequate information contained on the DA plans to ascertain a complete picture of the buildings to be developed, including site levels. In fact it may be considered the application does not comply with Clause 50 and Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the EP&A Regulations.
- The EIS does not address the probability of the development being integrated under the Water Act due to the volume of water collection and use of run off.
- Minor discrepancies in the descriptions of planning provisions, referencing to RLEP and the Rural Industry definitions.
- Potential for requirements of SEPP 1 objection to vary the 14 metre height limit for structures other than the retorts.
- The development may still be contingent upon relevant agency licences and approvals, including Council approvals for water supply and on-site sewage management (if required)
- Concern the economic multiplier between 1.463 and 1.816 “borrowed” from other similar developments elsewhere in the State. Multipliers should not be transferred or borrowed to apply to another economy or demography. Use of the income multiplier and the financial contribution requires further information.
- The use of income multipliers and financial contribution to the regional economy is questionable, including the potential double counting of expected job creation through redeployment of forestry labour.
- Cost benefit analysis was not included and did not adequately demonstrate feasibility of the project, and therefore appropriately identified the real opportunity costs. “Opportunity costs” can be described as regional economic benefits foregone if the project proceeds, not just if the project starts or does not proceed.
- Actual job generation is uncertain.
- Some inaccuracies over the analysis of wages contributing to the regional economy – a value of $630,000 (equating to 18 jobs) is nominated as the regional contribution, yet the EIS indicates elsewhere the facility will employ 20-25 jobs.
- Potential impacts upon tourism and land values have not been adequately addressed, including increased demand on public services and facilities
- Attitudinal impacts on Shire residents appears not to have been addressed.
- The Tourism significance of smaller villages in the central district appears not to have been appropriately referenced, and economic feasibility analysis may have been more appropriate to assess the potential financial and employment impacts on tourism
- Concerns the EIS did not contemplate the effect on the successful self drive marketing campaign of the Shire as a Nature Coast, and consequent tourist related employment.
- The EIS claims the facility will not be a catalyst for further industrial development of the same kind, yet indicates there will be opportunities for establishing linked or feeder industries.
- Concerns the transfer of sawdust and other wastes to complement landscaping supplies will swamp local markets and impact existing employment in local recycling industries.
- The EIS inadequately referenced the locality of local schools and colleges and retirement villages.
Traffic and Transport
- Traffic and transport calculations were considered correct, noting the increase in heavy vehicle traffic of 10% which may cause increased travel times and queuing. Options to be considered included conditioning of transport movements at times outside business hours and tourism peaks.
- Unclear as to definition of “heavy vehicles” ie rigid -v- articulated -v- B-double transport
- Noted the 10% increase is averaged across the whole Region for a whole year, yet timber harvesting will be concentrated in certain compartments causing concentrated increases heavy vehicle movements in a locality for shortened periods of time of a year but with greater noise and traffic impacts.
- Council had requested analysis of traffic loads of local, forest and State roads. There was inadequate information on the impact on local roads by locality in the EIS, negating opportunities for council to calculate road contribution options by the development.
- It is noted the RTA will require special design treatments for the Princes Highway access to the site and limit the type and articulation of heavy vehicles travelling State roads.
- The predicted noise levels are likely to impact on outdoor activities in the construction phase and cause sleep disturbance during the operational phase.
- Loading of retorts is likely to cause a noise exceedance, noting it is a 24 hour 7 day operation.
- The EIS indicated the operational intrusive noise criteria is a project limiting factor.
- No information to compare current noise/dust from the gravel operation.
- The EIS appears to not apply “modifying factor adjustments” to the calculations for intermittent and impulsive noise.
- It is considered traffic noise will be increased and perceptible to occupiers of land near the access road from the highway.
- There is concern noise assessments were not taken from some properties or “receptors” on the assumption they would have the same background noise and attenuating noise.
- Noted the background noise levels (daytime, evening and night) were up to 20% lower than the “benchmark” background noise level of 30dBA, established in the EPA guidelines.
- While noting an increase in noise level by 10dBA represents a doubling in the loudness, there is indication in the EIS that construction noise may not be contained within that range and that during favourable weather conditions (37.8%) the noise criteria could not be met.
- Suggested referencing to World Health Organisation and Department of Health guidelines on cumulative effect of noise on human function.
- Potential for the nominated outputs of each of the specified retorts may be exceeded and those scenarios (in terms of environmental impacts) are not adequately contemplated in the EIS
- There is potential for poor dispersion and cumulative impacts of particulate and pollutants in the atmosphere in the Broulee/Mossy Point locality due to the occurrence of stable weather patterns.
- There are some arguments the use of the Ausplume model is outdated and does not apply to coastal areas.
- Inadequate analysis of health risk to immediate and “fall out zone” residential areas, noting age/health demographic. WHO and DoH guidelines should be considered.
- The EIS incorrectly labels in Table 9.1 that the emissions are reported to be “prior to after burning”, rather than “after the after burning” of retort gases.
- Emission characteristics from the retort are based on optimum operating capacity. Should the Afterburners fail and the flare is required to burn off emissions, the EIS does not discuss adequately the air quality issues based on the likelihood of plant downtime and potential greater discharge of air pollutants during flare.
- Applying United States NIOSH indicators there is potential effect of pollutants on human and plant health in an accumulated and cumulative context. There is similar concern over particulate fallout into residential and farm potable water supplies.
- There may be arguments better meteorological information may have been gained from a site other than Moruya Airport where atmospheric and topographic characteristics are similar to the proposed site.
Soil and Hydrology
- Coefficients used for calculation in Hydrology are understated (by up to a factor of 3-4) due to the extent of hardstand areas on the site. The potential overflow into the SEPP14 wetlands requires further assessment against those higher coefficients. Untreated water may be similar in nature to leachate and may require specific licensing from EPA.
- Stormwater flows from the storage areas may contain fine sediment that may collect and release leachates and contaminants from processed water into SEPP14 Wetlands.
- Overflows have been calculated by using a dam size of 20ML and should have been based on the size of the runoff pond (2-3ML)
- The monitoring proposed is not located at point of discharge to the environment nor aligns with the EPA performance criteria.
- Clarification is required on the role of Council in collecting, assessing and policing of all emission, water and hydrology data.
Water Cycle and Demand
- Further analysis of maximum annual demand from a Council water supply is required in extended dry periods.
- Noted 55ML annual demand represents minor increase in Council water supply restrictions.
- Sizing of dam indicated as inadequate (Soil and Hydrology).
- The “notional” siting of a pipeline for water or treated effluent appears to cross a SEPP14 wetland which has not been identified on site maps, nor contemplated in the EIS.
- Should connection to council water or effluent supply be required, a pipeline/pumping stations at applicant’s costs following REF and negotiation with effected property owners.
- Unclear as to source of original “start up” water supply.
- Concentration of saline water and other contaminants or discharge to the STP requires appropriate controls to avoid shock loadings.
- Thorough investigation into the nature of contaminants into sewer system on a case by case basis be required
- Understood EPA will be regulatory authority under POEO Act.
- The effect of saline levels on timbers used in retorts (evaporative or emission process) not adequately discussed in terms of potential production of dioxins.
- Further analysis of evaporative and leachate consequences of recycled or harvested waters (eg PAH) in the production process required – concern discharged products may enter SEPP14 Wetland and impact air quality.
- Operational Waste to be dealt with under POEO Act and EPA Guidelines.
- A Waste Management Plan should be submitted for assessment of Waste Streams to enable compliance with Council’s Waste Minimisation Strategy.
- Further information is required on potential extraction uses and transport of processing bi-products such as saw dust and carbon fines, including freighting to external markets or burning off.
- Incomplete assessment of visual amenity. GIS evidence of greater potential view sheds other than nominated within the EIS.
- Omissions have varying degrees of significance as the visibility of the retorts or other structures are filtered due to backdrops and distance from viewing points.
- Further research likely for threatened species (Yellow Bellied glider and leafless tongue orchid), particularly using Gaia Research examining existence, foraging patterns and habitat corridors in the Broulee coastal plain.
- Noted little consultation with the relevant Aboriginal communities. While no sites identified, given “cultural richness” of the area an archaeological assessment may be required.
It is suggested that council should consider what further discussions, negotiations or actions could be taken should the Minister approve the development. Those actions may include:
- A ‘without prejudice’ list of conditions suggested by council to the Minister.
- Lobbying for ameliorating actions such as logging or charcoal loads to be transported at certain times of day or year; emergency management etc
- Response to pollution (noise, dust, air, water), cultural heritage or flora/fauna complaints to be dealt with by state agencies, not council, and by what means and whose cost.
- Lobbying for infrastructure improvement or funding for security of supply and road safety – such as upgrade of Princes and Kings Highways; duplication of trunk mains to off stream storage; or improvement to effluent reuse options.
Members of the public are invited to present their views to Councillors on the project, notwithstanding the resolution of the Special Meeting of council outlined below, and a public meeting to be held on 16 December 2001 at 2:00 pm at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club.
Here’s what the council decided on Monday
MOTION Councillor Vardon/Councillor Gough
1. The report on the review of the Environmental Impact Statement – Proposed Wood Processing and Metallurgical Carbon Facility, Lot 544 DP 736015, Parish of Tomaga be received and noted.
2. (a) The State Government be informed that Eurobodalla Shire Council considers that the EIS undertaken by Australian Silicon Pty Ltd for a proposed charcoal facility at Mogo is deficient;
(b) The report on the review of the Environmental Impact Statement – Proposed Wood Processing and Metallurgical Carbon Facility, Lot 544 DP736015, Parish of Tomaga be submitted as part of Eurobodalla Shire Council’s submission to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, noting in particular the following points:
(c) The public comments as noted at the Special Meeting on 10 December 2001 and the resolution of the Tourism Board (attached to these minutes), be included in Council’s submission.
3 Council considers the EIS may be deficient in other matters as well which Council has been unable to determine. Council considers many of the issues which need to be addressed in an EIS have been overlooked.
4. Having regard to the above matters, Eurobodalla Shire Council informs the State Government that it does not support the application.
5. If the State Government decides to proceed further with this application, Eurobodalla Shire Council requests that all matters outlined above be further addressed and Council requests that a more detailed EIS be prepared and submitted and that Council be given further opportunity to comment prior to the application’s determination.
6. Council advise the Minister for Planning that should the Minister determine to approve the application, Council be given the opportunity to lodge “without prejudice” conditions of consent for inclusion on the approval.
7. Council receive a further report on options or projects to lobby the Government to augment the infrastructure and environment integrity and viability of the Shire potentially affected by the development.
8. Australian Silicon be informed of Council’s determination.
9. Council thanks the Council staff for their work in preparing the report for the Special Meeting of Council of 10 December 2001.
(The Motion on being put was declared CARRIED.
Councillor Dance voted against the Motion.)
Tourism Board View
The Eurobodalla Coast Tourism Board considered the proposal at a meeting held 7 December 2001 and resolved:
1. That the Eurobodalla Coast Tourism Board oppose the proposal by Australian Silicon Limited to establish a Wood Processing and Metallurgical Carbon Facility near Mogo on the grounds of its likely impact on the Board’s successful and long term branding of the Nature Coast and the potential impact of increased heavy traffic on the Board’s lucrative self drive market strategies.
2. That the Tourism Board’s view be conveyed to the Premier, responsible Minister and other stakeholders following the Chairman and Executive Officer advising the decision to the Mayor and General Manager of Eurobodalla Shire Council.
The application is for a Wood Processing and Metallurgical Carbon Facility.
It will supply charcoal to a proposed silicon factory in Lithgow.
The determining authority is the state government, not council.
The plant will use up to 200,000 tonnes of timber each year.
The plant will have a life of 20 years.
The major part of the plant will be five retorts to burn the wood each 34 metres high.
The company expects the plant to employ about 25 local full time personnel.
Need to know more?
The full report considered by council is available to read at a number of locations in the shire. It can be found at all three Public Libraries, in Moruya, Narooma and Batemans Bay as well as at council’s Moruya Administration Centre.
The report [PDF format] is also on council’s web site.
The EIS prepared by the consulting firm ERM is also on display at the council administration centre in Moruya and at libraries.