Author Archives: A.

Gina Rinehart Key Donor to IPA

Original article can be viewed here:
https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/07/17/billionaire-mining-magnate-gina-rinehart-revealed-key-donor-australian-climate-science-denial-promoter-institute

Billionaire Mining Magnate Gina Rinehart Revealed As Key Donor to Australian Climate Science Denial Promoter Institute of Public Affairs
By Graham Readfearn • Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - 20:09

Australia’s richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, has been revealed as a key funder of the right wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) — a major pusher of climate science denial.

Rinehart’s company, Hancock Prospecting Proprietary Ltd (HPPL), donated $2.3 million to the IPA in 2016 and $2.2 million in 2017, according to disclosures made to the New South Wales Supreme Court.

As part of a long-running legal dispute over the use of company funds, Gina Rinehart’s daughter Bianca had served a subpoena to access documents that would have shed light on the two donations from HPPL to the IPA.

The IPA is an influential right wing think tank with close ties to Australia’s governing Liberal Party. IPA fellows regularly appear in the media. The payments suggest that more than a third of the IPA’s income in 2016 and 2017 was from HPPL — majority-owned privately by Gina Rinehart.

According to Forbes, Rinehart was the seventh richest woman in the world in 2017 and Australia’s richest person, with current wealth estimated to be $17.6 billion.

The IPA is a registered charity but is not legally required to disclose its funders and has declined to reveal them in recent years, citing concerns that donors could be “intimidated.”

According to the court judgement, Bianca’s solicitors had been provided with a schedule of “donations and sponsorships” from HPPL where it was disclosed, the judgement said, “that HPPL paid or provided amounts to IPA in a total of $2.3 million for the 2016 financial year and $2.2 million in the 2017 financial year.”

The donations also raise questions about the way the IPA has disclosed the nature of its revenues.

The IPA's 2017 annual report declared $6.1 million of income but said that “86 percent” had come from individuals. HPPL’s $2.2 million donation constituted more than a third of the IPA’s income that year.

In 2016, the IPA reported that 91 percent of donations were from individuals, but that year HPPL’s $2.3 million donation constituted almost half the IPA's income of $4.96 million that year.

DeSmog has emailed HPPL asking why it was supporting the IPA, if the donations were linked to specific work, and if it was still a supporter. DeSmog also asked the IPA about the donations and if supporters should be concerned that so much if its income is derived from one person. IPA spokesperson Evan Mulholland replied: “No comment.”

Rinehart's Climate Science Denial
The IPA has long pushed climate science denialism — publishing books and sponsoring speaking tours of prominent climate science deniers.

Rinehart’s own views on human-caused climate change match those promoted by the IPA.

In 2011, she wrote in a magazine column that she had “yet to hear scientific evidence to satisfy me that if the very, very small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (approximately 0.38%) was increased, it could lead to significant global warming.”

She added: “I have never met a geologist or leading scientist who believes adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will have any significant effect on climate change, especially not from a relatively small country like Australia.”

Rinehart has also supported Australia speaking tours of UK climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton. Professor Ian Plimer, another prominent geologist who rejects climate change science, sits on the board of HPPL subsidiary Roy Hill Holdings.

An IPA Agenda
In 2010, Rinehart led “axe the tax” chants at a rally to oppose government plans to introduce a “carbon tax” — a campaign also heavily pushed by the IPA.

In 2015, the IPA was a finalist for an award from an international network of so-called free market think tanks, the Atlas Foundation, for its work opposing policies to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.

The IPA also partnered in 2012 with Rinehart’s lobby group — Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision — to run a campaign to promote economic growth and special treatment for the north of Australia. John Roskam, the IPA’s executive director, regularly wrote bulletins.

In 2013, the IPA gave Gina Rinehart a “Free Enterprise Leader Award” — an award she accepted at a dinner alongside then soon-to-be Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Rupert Murdoch (Murdoch’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, helped found the institute and Rupert served on its council from 1986 to 2000). In 2016 Rinehart was made an “honorary life member” of the IPA.

The IPA has also promoted massive export-focused coal mines planned for the Galilee Basin, arguing they would help lift Indians from poverty. Rinehart has a direct stake in GVK Hancock — one company looking to develop coal mines in the Queensland deposit.

The IPA is seen among progressives as having an outgrown influence on Australia’s Liberal Party. Current Liberal MP Tim Wilson and Senator James Paterson are both former IPA staff members.

In May, it was reported the IPA had been proposed as a potential co-host of a later-cancelled visit to Australia by former United States EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

An IPA-sponsored climate study that claimed most global warming was natural was heavily promoted among conservative media outlets around the world. Climate scientists who reviewed the paper, which had appeared in a journal, described the work as “junk science.”

DeSmog had not heard from the IPA or Hancock Prospecting at the time of publishing.

UPDATE July 18, 2018, 3:35pm AEST: IPA spokesperson Evan Mulholland replied: “No comment.”

Eco group: LNG decision straight out of ‘Yes Minister’

Source: https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/eco-group-lng-decision-straight-out-of-yes-ministe/3464097/

by ANDREW THORPE
11th Jul 2018 4:30 AM

AN AMENDMENT to QCLNG's environmental authority which clarifies smoke emitted at night does not meet the definition of "visible smoke" has been likened to BBC comedy Yes Minister by a local environmental group.

The environmental authority was amended on June 29 after an application by QGC for more flexibility to give off smoke during maintenance works such as shut-downs.

The company is restricted to emitting a total of seven hours of visible smoke per year.

Smoke density is determined using the Ringelmann Smoke Chart, which grades smoke based on its darkness.

In the latest amendment to the environmental authority, the Department of Environment and Science acknowledges smoke released at night will not result in a Ringelmann reading of greater than two, so smoke released at night cannot be considered "visible".

Smoky flaring at night has therefore always been allowed.

The company's request for an increase in the cap from seven hours per year to 29 hours was denied, but the cap on individual flaring events was raised to 90 minutes in safety-related circumstances.

The Gladstone Conservation Council, which opposed the change, was informed of the decision earlier this month.

"When I found out I was angry at first, then I couldn't stop laughing," co-founder Cheryl Watson said.

Ms Watson said the decision was part of a broader struggle when it came to environmental agreements.

"People were happy to have that industry there under certain conditions, but the fact is those facts no longer apply - they change them," she said.

"Instead of making the companies abide by the environmental authority, the government has bent over and found little ways to work around the restrictions with them."

A QGC spokesperson said the company's flaring conditions remained the strictest of any of the LNG plants.

"QGC acknowledges that the Department must strike a balance, and appreciates that our need for some operational flexibility especially during major maintenance works has been acknowledged," the spokesperson said.

"We work hard at minimising flaring and the Government's air quality monitoring confirms no exceeding of the air quality objectives as a result of our recent shut-down activities."

A response from the Department of Environment and Science had not been received as of yesterday evening.

Pandanus Die-back – Gladstone on the front line

My friends,
recently I was privileged to attend a Pandanus information session on Monday the 5th of February at Agnes Water hosted by The Gladstone Regional Council.

Pandanus plants are an iconic species for the Queensland coast, with the seeds being an important food source for indigenous people, and they remain an important part of the dune ecosystem. The roots reduce erosion damage, the seeds provide food for many animals, and the crowns store rainwater for wildlife. The trees are also a salt buffer for other plants against the on shore winds.

Joel Fostin from Ecosystem Management and Biosecurity Solutions spoke to us about the current threats facing this iconic species with particular regard to the introduced Jamella australiae or leafhopper.

Leafhoppers have been transplanted from northern Australia via specimen trees, so while they are a native species to Australia, they are not native to this area and are causing extensive damage.

Up the eastern coast of Queensland up to 50% of mature trees have been lost which is a shocking thing and something I was not aware of. The female trees which have survived are stressed and not producing seed reliably. This issue isn't being managed in a co-ordinated way at all.

Gladstone is on the front line for this issue as there are no leafhoppers north of 1770 Creek at this stage, but we need to be aware of the possible spread north of this damaging pest.

The leafhoppers life cycle is egg to adult in 8 weeks and they can lay 5-8000 eggs on a single leaf. the good news is that wasp control trials are showing promise. The wasp is tiny, and attacks the leafhopper eggs, rather than the wasp itself, and this means that the wasps can be moved from tree to tree with the right technique.

How can you help?
Pandanus seeds can be planted just past the first dune, to a depth of halfway up the seed, or they can be propogated and replanted. they sprout fairly easily and have high genetic diversity so increasing the population is one strategy, but a long term one.

Keep a close eye on your local trees and if you see crowns starting to die off, please contact Council as soon as possible as there are a range of measures which can be put in place to save the trees.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/pandanusprotection/

Pandanus die back at Workman's Beach, Agnes Water

A healthy pandanus plant at Workman's Beach, Agnes Water

Pandanus seeds ready to be planted along the foreshore

A young pandanus plant ready to be planted out.

A pandanus seed contains multiple sprouts which can be separated and planted in a nursery setting.

Trump’s censorship of science

Original text from ThinkProgress

Link to Silencing Science Tracker

Climate coalition tallied all of Trump’s censorship of science. It’s staggering.
Trump's war on science threatens the nation's safety, experts warn.
Joe Romm
Jan 22, 2018, 12:22 pm

President Donald Trump and his administration have censored or stifled science — particularly climate science — almost 100 times since the election.
This adds up to a reckless and unprecedented war on science, according to the Silencing Science Tracker, which tallies up all of the budget cuts to science, the record low number of science positions filled by Trump, the deletion of science data from websites, the censorship of the words “climate change” from federal reports, and so on.

The tracker is a new initiative from the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund and Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

The center’s faculty adviser, Michael Gerrard, called Trump’s blinkered decision to ignore science “dangerous and intolerable,” like “a truck driver who wears a blindfold and drives based on what is whispered into his ear.” That’s especially reckless when the truck driver is speeding toward a cliff called catastrophic climate change.

This is what America will look like if we follow Trump’s climate policies
Leaked draft reveals a devastated America, up to 8 feet of sea level rise, 18°F Arctic warming–unless we embrace Paris climate deal

The tracker has been monitoring efforts to “restrict or prohibit scientific research, education or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information” since Trump was elected.

Since the tracker is entirely based on what has been reported by the media, this suggests the actual degree to which the administration is directly undermining science may be much higher.

CREDIT: Screenshot of Climate Science Tracker
To date, the tracker has 96 entries, including 41 examples of outright government censorship. For instance, “on December 20, 2017, ninety-two documents describing national parks’ climate action plans were removed from the National Park Service (NPS) website.”
And climate change is already an area where the public is not receiving enough factual information and instead is forced to wade through an open fire hydrant of misinformation from the fossil fuel-funded effort to promote climate science denial.
The tracker has also tallied dozens of instances of the administration stifling or silencing scientific work — for instance, by failing to appoint people for key positions of scientific oversight and by putting out a new National Security Strategy that removes “climate change” from its list of threats to our national security.

Trump administration has quietly changed government’s sharing of climate data in unprecedented ways
Just one year in, the changes are pronounced.
“America has excelled as a nation in large part because its unwavering governmental support for science and technology,” Michael Mann, a leading climate scientist, told ThinkProgress. “By censoring and stifling scientific research—in the area of climate change in particular—Trump threatens both our economic competitiveness as a nation—and our safety.”

#Climate, #Donald Trump, #Science

Simone Marsh’s expose of the Corrupt birth of the LNG industry in Qld

Source:
https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/whistle-blower-simone-marshs-new-expos-the-corrupt-birth-of-the-queensland-gas-industry,8547 downloaded 8/1/16.
[editors note: the original article included a number of Twitter grabs and videos which have been removed in the interests of brevity]

Courageous whistle-blower, Simone Marsh, shines a further spotlight into the murky and corrupt relationship between the Queensland gas industry and the politicians who are supposed to serve the interests of the public.

PETER GARRETT'S recent memoir Big Blue Sky has offered further insight into the entry of the Queensland CSG-LNG export industry in 2010.

Garrett, who at that time was the federal environment minister, had responsibility for decisions under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). Referring to the British Gas (QGC) and Santos CSG-LNG projects, Garrett states that one of his final decisions was actually a non-decision.

According to Garrett, despite unambiguous advice from Geosciences Australia regarding inadequate assessment of groundwater impacts on the Great Artesian Basin, intense pressure was applied. Federal treasurer Wayne Swan and resources minister Martin Ferguson had been "acutely focused on the decision".

In Beijing on 24 March 2010, Ferguson witnessed the signing of the sales contract between the BG Group chief executive, Frank Chapman (now Sir Frank), and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) president, Fu Chengyu. Other witnesses at the ceremony included the Duke of York, Prince Andrew and the Vice Minister of China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), Lui Qi. Days earlier, on 12 March 2010, BG Group’s Frank Chapman, Catherine Tanna and Rob Millhouse had been invited guests of Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Deputy Premier Paul Lucas — at the government box at Suncorp stadium in Brisbane. Queensland’s Under-Treasurer, Gerard Bradley, and wife Imelda Bradley (Director of Special Projects at the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General) were also invited. Paul Lucas later (February 2011) moved into the position of Attorney-General of Queensland.

In his memoir, Garrett questions whether the Federal Attorney-General’s department had been monitoring his activities during 2010. Not long after Garrett’s "non-decision", he was moved out of the environment portfolio. Garrett had suspected that Swan wanted him out. Tony Burke was moved into the portfolio in Julia Gillard’s second ministry. Within a matter of weeks (22 October 2010), Burke approved the first two east coast CSG-LNG projects. Five months later (March 2011) Wayne Swan appointed BG Group’s Catherine Tanna to the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Garrett’s memoir adds weight to evidence given by me to a federal Senate Inquiry in 2014. Amongst one of several documents initially redacted by certain members of the Senate Select Committee, is an email sent to Queensland treasurer Andrew Fraser on 12 May 2010. The one-page email from Ian Fletcher, then Queensland director-general of the department responsible for issuing petroleum permits, outlines the status of QGC’s environmental impact assessment.

According to Fletcher, QGC’s David Maxwell claimed QGC were unable to provide "detailed engineering data for construction”. Presumably the missing detail would have shown the location of gas field infrastructure. Hence, the gas company had a major legal problem, as the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (QLD) required location information in order to undertake environmental impact assessments and approval decisions.

In fact, many elements were missing, including baseline studies describing existing environmental values (another legal requirement); however these were not mentioned in Fletcher’s email. Multiple CSG-LNG companies were lining up for approvals in the same leaky boats.

QGC’s David Maxwell had been an invited guest of Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser at the government box at the stadium a few months earlier (19 September 2009).

Fletcher outlines QGC’s proposal to appear in front of an LNG Committee to explain its position (i.e. problems following legal requirements) and suggests the proposal represents 'a degree of constitutional innovation'. Fletcher cautions: 'The LNG Committee as a Court of Star Chamber?'

The Coordinator-General forwarded Fletcher’s email to his deputies and assistant. The Assistant Coordinator-General forwarded the email onto my supervisors with the warning: ‘Under pressure!’

Santos’s Rick Wilkinson (whom later moved across to industry group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association - APPEA) and Santos’ James Purtill (whom has now returned to Queensland Government – as director general of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) – from where he came) were invited guests of Treasurer Andrew Fraser at the government box at the stadium on 14 May 2010, i.e. two days after the "constitutional innovation" email. The Queensland Law Society President was also invited.

Within days of Fletcher’s email (and presumably after QGC’s presentation to the LNG Committee), I was instructed to finalise sections of the Coordinator-General’s report for the Santos and QGC projects. I was not permitted to speak with the Coordinator-General, and draft text was altered and deleted without consultation. The Coordinator-General’s final conditions enabled gas field information to be submitted prior to construction, i.e. after the legislated assessment process. The rule of law had been thrown out on George Street.

People and events surrounding CSG appear to exist in a twilight zone. Ian Fletcher’s intriguing work history includes high-level British government roles. Fletcher worked as a director at UK Trade and Investment, where he worked with the Duke of York. The timing of his Queensland appointment is fascinating, coincidentally synchronising with BG Group entry. By late 2011, Fletcher had departed Queensland, to head the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) i.e. New Zealand’s spy agency.

Queensland executive officers copied into Fletcher's constitutional innovation email:

Colin Jensen — Coordinator-General and Director-General of the Department of Infrastructure and Planning. Jensen resigned after signing off the QGC project and was appointed to a lucrative position as CEO of Brisbane City Council. Campbell Newman was Lord Mayor at the time.

John Bradley — Director-General of the environment department and subsequently Director-General of Premier and Cabinet. Bradley later received a substantial payout (approximately $1M) from the Newman government and became CEO of the Energy Networks Association - the national lobby group for gas and electricity transmitters.

Mal Hellmuth — General Manager LNG Industry Unit within Ian Fletcher’s department (DEEDI).

Dan Hunt — Associate Director-General of Fletcher’s department (DEEDI), was later appointed by the Newman government as Director-General of the Department of Energy and Water Supply.

Mark Bermingham — Deputy Director-General of Fletcher’s department (DEEDI) later offered another position by the Newman government.

It is likely the Under-Treasurer, Gerard Bradley, received a copy of Fletcher’s email. Gerard Bradley later received a substantial payout (approximately $706K) from the Newman government, and was subsequently appointed, by the Newman government, as Chairman of Queensland Treasury Corporation — a government owned corporation. Gerard Bradley’s wife, Imelda Bradley remained within the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (Queensland).

So the story of the setting up of the Queensland CSG/LNG industry is somewhat like former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to prove he has renounced his British citizenship before running as an MP, leaving us still unable to learn if he was even legally able to become an MP let alone prime minister.

Similarly here, under time pressure, senior bureaucrats and politicians pulled strings and shifted guidelines and rules to get the industry in place before the “drop dead” date it was allowed.

Thus, the Queensland gas industry was set up in corrupt fashion, and continues to operate in exactly that fashion to this day.

Simone Marsh was a former analyst with the Queensland Co-ordinator General, whose role included authoring a report on the environmental effects of the proposed LNG industry. Following the filing of the report in June 2010, she walked out of her job and was not heard of again in the media until she testified at the Queensland government parliamentary inquiry into Queensland government administration of Commonwealth government affairs in November last year.

QGC fined for LNG flare smoke incident on Curtis Island

 Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/qgc-fined-over-lng-flare-smoke-curtis-island/2816977/

QGC fined for LNG flare smoke incident on Curtis Island

23rd Oct 2015 10:50 AM

QGC has been fined $8538 for causing an environmental nuisance after a flare released a plume of black smoke at its Curtis Island LNG plant.

An infringement notice was issued to QGC following EHP's investigation into the release of smoke on March 10 from a flare near Gladstone.

Subsequent black smoke events are still being investigated.

Gas flares are designed to provide a safe means of dealing with gas that cannot be used in the process and is authorised under conditions in QGC's Environmental Authority.

The State Government operates a network of seven air quality monitoring stations across the Gladstone region to monitor contaminant levels at sensitive places such as residences, and measurements during the black smoke events have not exceeded the air quality standard.

Live air monitoring data is available online at the Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection website.

Any member of the community concerned about flares are encouraged to contact the department's pollution hotline on 1300 130 3721300 130 372.

Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines

Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/letter-qgc-flare-emissions-guidelines/2741563/#.Vc7k8xs4czI.mailto

Opinion
Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines
Jeff Baillie, QGC | 15th Aug 2015 6:05 AM

Letter to the editor from Jeff Baillie, deputy asset manager midstream, QGC:

COVERAGE of allegations raised by the Gladstone Conservation Council in relation to flaring at our Curtis Island plant has disregarded the evidence and expertise of those people best positioned to manage this matter.

Reporting on the composition of our flare commenced with the approved QCLNG Environmental Impact Statement.

It has continued with the regulator, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, as appropriate under our Environmental Authority and as initial scientific studies are reviewed and updated.

We have also been transparent about the composition of the black smoke sometimes emitted in our flares through information freely available to the community online and in personal briefings to various community-based organisations.

The truth is, the flare flow meters are just one part of a bigger network of technological resources and systems available to our highly trained team of environmental scientists in monitoring and managing our flaring activity.

The independent environmental assessment conducted earlier this year and referenced in your article, found that even under worst-case scenarios, the ground-level concentrations of emissions are well within relevant air quality objectives set by government.

The ambient air monitors positioned around the Gladstone region and managed by the department show no impact on the overall air quality in the region associated with emissions from the QCLNG plant.

Gladstone residents can be confident in these findings.

They can also be confident and proud that in establishing our world's first plant to produce LNG from natural gas in coal seams, we have used world-leading technology.

I assure you, the safe operation of the LNG plant is our highest priority. That includes ensuring the safety of the Gladstone community.

We encourage people with any concerns to call us free on 1800 030 443 FREE, email us at community@qgc.com.au or drop in to our office at 72 Goondoon St.

Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Original Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/meters-monitoring-flares-not-fully-functional-repo/2740500/

Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Helen Spelitis | 14th Aug 2015 6:26 AM

BLACK SMOKE: An RTI document obtained by GREAN shows equipment used to monitor contents of flare smoke and gas flow was not fully operational between December 2014 and April this year.

FLARE flow meters at the QCLNG plant on Curtis Island, Gladstone had "potential defects" and couldn't be relied on for five months up to April this year, an official information request reveals.

The problems with the flare flow meters coincide with the most significant visible flaring activity of recent times.

The monitoring meters check for health and environment impacts, as well as the plant's productivity.

>> Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines

While government officials have in the past said they do not have any specific health concerns in relation to flare emissions, the fault has alarmed Gladstone green groups.

Gladstone Conservation Council president Jan Arens, who has a background in engineering and industry, said without the flow meters there was no way of being sure what chemicals were being released into the atmosphere.

"It feels as though concerns raised by the community have simply been pushed aside," Mr Arens said.

"If they've got nothing to hide, then produce the science. Tell us exactly what is in the black smoke."

On April 9 the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection ordered QGC to conduct an evaluation into flare emissions.

The company's fact sheet says the emissions are mostly carbon dioxide.

But the report, within the documents obtained under Right to Information, states the key pollutants at the QCLNG plants include methane, ethylene, acetylene, propane and propylene.

Mr Arens has repeatedly asked QGC to provide scientific data of black smoke samples including details on sampling, test methods and results.

So far his request has been denied.

The Environment Department confirmed it was aware the flow meters weren't working as designed.

However, the meters aren't a requirement under the Environmental Authority. Instead, the department relies on seven ambient air monitors to monitor air quality.

That is exactly the issue Gladstone Region Environmental Advisory Network has raised this week when it formally asked Gladstone Regional Council to approach State Government.

It says those air monitors and not sufficient.

The council is expected to make a decision during their meeting next Tuesday.