Environment regulator questioned over its measuring of how it protects public health, ABC News By Rebecca Turner, 20 Oct 16, The environmental regulator has been questioned why it is using the speed at which it issues environmental approvals to measure its effectiveness at protecting public health and the environment.
Between the lines of the department’s 2015-16 annual report lies a simmering disagreement between the public sector watchdog, auditor-general Colin Murphy, and the director-general of the Department of Environmental Regulation, Jason Banks.
Mr Murphy has taken the Department of Environment Regulation (DER) to task for choosing to monitor how effectively it fulfils one of its key roles — ensuring pollution and land clearing do not put the health of Western Australians or their environment at risk — by measuring how quickly it finalises environmental approvals, permits and investigations……..
While the disagreement is being played out in the most bureaucratic of language in a document which is likely to gather dust on departmental shelves, it is an interesting insight into how policy debates are conducted among public servants.
For example, Mr Murphy chose to issue a qualified opinion on the department’s annual report, a serious matter in the world of auditing.
He was critical of how the department used four Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which focused on the timeliness of regulatory activities — including the percentage of major resource projects work approvals decided within 60 days — to measure how it was avoiding risks to public health and the environment.
He called the KPIs to assess its effectiveness as a regulator “not relevant”…….
While the nature of this new KPI is unknown, this year’s annual report marked the first time the department has not published KPIs which show how many times environmental pollution exceeded safe guidelines.
It has prompted Greens MP Lynn Maclaren to call on the WA Government to reinstate vigorous environmental health and air quality measuring in the annual report.
Ms Maclaren said she agreed with the auditor-general, who had raised a serious issue with a department which she claimed was shifting its focus away from ensuring a healthy environment and towards speedy development approvals.
“Who else is going to challenge the director-general in this way?” she said.”It shows that he is taking his job very seriously.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-20/auditor-general-in-public-spat-with-agency-der-environment/7947734
‘No-brainer’: Calls for CSIRO to make its CSG gas research more independent , The Age, Peter Hannam, 19 Oct 16 The CSIRO needs to ensure its research into coal seam gas remains independent of industry if it’s to win over opponents worried about environmental and social impacts, The Australia Institute (TAI) argues in a new paper.
The report highlighted how the original research advisory committee of the CSIRO-led body – known as the Gas Industry Social & Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) – had been dominated by industry representatives and the CSIRO.
While this committee have since been split into NSW and Queenslandones, industry continues to have a significant presence that raised doubts about how arm’s length the research work could be, said Matt Grudnoff, a researcher with the TAI.
“It’s not just the industry is sponsoring this research,” Mr Grudnoff said. “Industry also sits at the table that decides the questions, and decides what projects get funded.” “It’s a no-brainer that they should get gas executives off these research committees” if the industry wanted to be accepted by communities worried about interference and possible contamination of aquifers from CSG wells, he said.
The industry also wants to convince the public that gas is cleaner than coal as part of efforts to gain “social licence”, Mr Grudnoff said. CSIRO executives will face a fresh grilling at Senate estimates on Thursday.
Emails released earlier this year revealed the nation’s premier research agency was looking to shift its emphasis away from “science for science sake”.
“Public good is not enough, needs to be linked to jobs and growth, but science that leads to SLO [social licence to operate] is OK,” Andreas Schiller, an executive in the Oceans and Atmosphere division, said in one email.
According to CSIRO, GISERA funding totalled $13.05 million for the 2014-15 to 2016-17 years. Industry chipped in about half, or $6.65 million, with governments and CSIRO providing the rest…….http://www.theage.com.au/environment/nobrainer-calls-for-csiro-to-make-its-csg-gas-research-more-independent-20161019-gs5vvg.html
Australia will not support negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons Senate estimates to question foreign affairs department officials on Thursday on nuclear disarmament stance, Guardian, Ben Doherty 20 Oct 16, Australia will not support a resolution to begin negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons, as it grows increasingly isolated from a global disarmament push.
A resolution is before the United Nations general assembly to “convene a United Nations conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons”.
The resolution has 39 co-sponsoring nations and will be voted on by the general assembly later this month, or next. The conference is slated for March next year.
Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will appear before Senate estimates on Thursday to face questioning on Australia’s nuclear disarmament position.
Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.
Australia has spent months in negotiations over the proposed negotiations, seeking to stymie the push for a ban on nuclear weapons, and has sought to press the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.
Australia has consistently maintained that while nuclear weapons exist, it must rely on the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal, the second largest in the world.
In August, with nations at a UN disarmament meeting set to unanimously pass a report recommending negotiations on a ban start in 2017, Australia forced a vote on the issue, which it lost 68 to 22.
The move upset opponents and allies alike, resulting in the adoption of a report with stronger language in favour of a ban. Australia was marked as the most strident opponent of a ban treaty.
But diplomatic cables obtained under freedom of information laws now show that Australia, despite its resolute opposition, is increasingly pessimistic about stopping ban treaty negotiations progressing.
“We are concerned that the [open-ended working] group [on nuclear disarmament] is tracking towards recommendations supporting a nuclear weapons ‘ban treaty’ which we do not support,” a cable sent to Canberra from Geneva in June this year said.
A so-called “humanitarian pledge” to eliminate nuclear weapons has been signed by 127 states around the world. Australia is particularly isolated in the Asia-Pacific region – ASEAN nations, New Zealand, and almost all Pacific Island states, support a ban treaty……….
Associate professor Tilman Ruff, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said that with a ban treaty likely to be concluded next year, the world stood at an historic turning point.
A ban would, he argued, “fill the existing legal gap which currently makes the most heinously destructive of all weapons the last weapon of mass destruction not explicitly outlawed by international treaty”.
“For other indiscriminate and inhumane weapons … the world has first established a clear moral and legal norm of prohibition. For biological and chemical weapons, antipersonnel land-mines and cluster munitions, establishing an unequivocal norm of prohibition has … been the basis for subsequent progress towards their elimination.
“Prohibit, then eliminate. That is the proven, logical path. For nuclear weapons it is also the only feasible, practical option at this time.”
The Australian government’s position, he said, was becoming increasingly untenable globally, and falling further out of step with Australian public opinion.
Politically, support for Australian reliance on America’s extended nuclear deterrence, is no longer bipartisan. At its national conference in 2015, Labor formally adopted a policy of “firm support” for an outright ban on nuclear weapons.
Lisa Singh spoke at a UN side event in New York last week – in her capacity as a Labor Senator, not as a representative of the Australian government – arguing the “doctrine of nuclear deterrence … is based on a willingness to inflict violence indiscriminately and on a massive scale”……… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/20/australia-will-not-support-negotiations-to-outlaw-nuclear-weapons
Dennis Matthews, 21 Oct 16 I have just read the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Update Report on the state-wide blackout.
The collapse of more than twenty transmission line towers initiated a sequence of domino-like events that ended with the loss of grid-power to the entire state. When I came to the end of the report I was mystified by the lack of attention to the first domino to fall – the transmission-line towers. The final chapter of the report, Next Steps, makes no mention of the towers, including the fact that they have been replaced by temporary structures.
I went back to the beginning of the report and was amazed to find the transmission line faults (caused by the tower collapses) classed as “pre event”.
What on earth is AEMO doing? Do we have to wait six months to find out whether the transmission-line towers are strong enough? Will there be another disruption to the electricity transmission system in the meantime? Your guess is as good as mine.
Why the silence on climate in the US presidential debates? The Conversation, October 20, 2016 As scientists become more gloomy about keeping global warming below the allegedly “safe” limit of 2℃, the issue is disappearing from the US presidential debates. There was a brief mention in the second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton debate, with climate change treated as an “afterthought”.
Trump has previously (in 2012) suggested that climate change “was created by and for the Chinese”. Clinton has put forward a detailed climate and energy plan.
Even former Vice President Al Gore joining Clinton on at a campaign rally in Florida didn’t particularly help.
So why has climate change gone AWOL? Continue reading
AP FACT CHECK: Trump gets facts wrong on START Treaty http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2016-10-19/ap-fact-check-trump-gets-facts-wrong-on-start-treaty
AP FACT CHECK: Donald Trump is wrong to say that only Russia can still create warheads under the New START treaty limiting nuclear weapons A claim from the final presidential debate and how it stacks up with the facts:
Adani coal mine would wipe out Direct Action gains within a year, estimates show, The Age, Peter Hannam, 20 Oct 16,
Carbon cuts made by the federal government’s Direct Action climate change plan by 2020 would be wiped out by pollution from a single coal mine in just over a year, new data revealed at a Senate estimates hearing shows.
Officials from the Clean Energy Regulator said that projects paid for from the first three auctions of the Emissions Reduction Fund – the backbone of Direct Action – would trim pollution by just 42 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent by 2020.
Even if all the remaining funds were spent – with a fourth auction planned for November 16 – emissions reductions are projected to total only 92 million tonnes by the year 2020, officials told senators.
By contrast, the Adani coal mine proposed for Queensland’s Galilee Basin would trigger emissions of about 79 million tonnes a year – nullifying the ERF’s pre-2020 abatement in little over a year if it proceeded……http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/adani-coal-mine-would-wipe-out-direct-action-gains-within-a-year-estimates-show-20161018-gs4v2r.html
France’s nuclear watchdog wants to shut down 5 reactors over failure risk https://www.rt.com/news/363484-france-nuclear-shut-down/ 20 Oct, 2016 10: The French nuclear watchdog has called for the shutdown and inspection of five more nuclear reactors for safety checks. The reactors have a high level of carbon which could lead to various failures.
The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has asked nuclear power utility EDF to carry out additional inspections at Fessenheim 1,Tricastin 2 and 4, Gravelines 4 and Civaux 1 reactors, according to a press release. All these reactors are located across the whole France, close to towns and communes.
“The performance of these inspections will require shutdown of the reactors concerned,” ASN added. The watchdog wants to check “certain channel heads of the steam generators on five of its reactors, in which the steel is affected by a high carbon concentration.”
According to ASN’s analysis, “certain channel heads of the steam generators … contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties.”
The watchdog said that it doesn’t want to wait “for the scheduled refueling outage of these reactors” and thus demands safety checks “within three months.”
According to the Local, this abnormality could lead to failures in mechanical properties and even to leaks or explosions.
The five reactors under scrutiny are among 18 at which ASN found abnormalities in June. Continue reading
Government funded Lomborg’s ‘vanity’ book: Senate Estimates, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/govt-funded-lomborgs-vanity-book-senate-estimates/news-story/c910a37727718a081b303897238a3913, JULIE HARE, Higher Education Editor Canberra @harejulie , 21 Oct 16, Taxpayers contributed $640,000 to a book edited, written and published by Bjorn Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus Centre which was ridiculed in Senate Estimates on Thursday as “vanity publishing”.