Climate activists disrupt Australian power plant

CANBERRA Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:55am EST

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CANBERRA (Reuters) - Protesters forced the evacuation of an Australian power station on Friday, attempting to chain themselves to a coal conveyor-belt and ratchet up pressure on an industry blamed for half the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

The incident, the latest in a series of environmental protests against Australia's coal-fired power stations and coal export industry, disrupted production at the state-owned Tarong power station in northern Queensland state.

"Australia's greenhouse pollution is rapidly increasing, and our addiction to coal-fired power is the main cause," protest spokeswoman Clare Towler told Australian Associated Press.

Australia, the world's biggest coal exporter, produces about 1.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global warming. But it is one of the world's highest per-capita emitters due to a reliance on coal for 80 percent of electricity.

The Tarong station generates up to 1,400 megawatts of electricity.

"At this stage it is not envisaged this incident will impact the state's electricity supply," the company said in a statement.

Queensland police said one person had been taken into custody after the incident.

Tarong Power produces up to 25 percent of Queensland's electricity from three power stations. The coal-fired Tarong and Tarong North power stations use up to 7 million tons a coal a year from the company's nearby coal mine.

In July, environment groups staged a six-day protest aimed at shutting Australia's Newcastle coal terminal, which is the world's biggest coal port, while power stations and the office of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have also been targeted.

In December, the Australian government will announce its target for greenhouse emissions by 2020, and details of its plan for carbon trading, due to start in July 2010.

(Reporting by James Grubel, Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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