Today Alcoa announced it will close the infamous Anglesea Power Station.
This is a big win for the community who have been breathing in the toxic fumes from the plant for 46 years. The plant is less than 1km from the local primary school and has posed unacceptable health risks for children and families for decades. It is also a big win for the climate. Coal power is on the way out. Every step towards eliminating brown coal, which pose a massive threat to our climate, is a win to celebrate.
Last week I made a statement in Parliament highlighting the toxic impacts of Anglesea coal-fired power station, and the sweet deal Alcoa was getting from the State of Victoria. Even with these taxpayer-funded perks, the mine and power station proved uneconomical for the company. It failed to find a buyer, and has now decided to close the plant of its own accord.
But this begs the question: why didn’t the state government see the writing on the wall, and put in a plan to rehabilitate the mine and plant, and transition workers to other industries, before Alcoa pulled out?
Today’s announcement should be a warning to the state government. Other coal plants are also on their way out, and they need have a clear plan for transitioning workers and communities to alternative, clean industries when coal owners pack up and leave.
The workers at Anglesea face an uncertain future. But if the Government proactively decided to close down coal-fired power stations - starting with the oldest and dirtiest, Hazelwood - it could ensure that plans are in place to support the workers and the community when coal closes down. Leaving it to the market, as they have done with Anglesea, signals that the government is ignoring the community. The Andrews Government must act, to avoid exposing coal-dependent communities to the full impact of the inevitable closure.
The energy transformation is already underway. Anglesea is the first brown coal domino to fall, and Hazelwood must be next.
We should join the community in celebrating the pending closure of the Anglesea Power Station, and support the workers as they determine what comes next. But we must keep up the pressure on the Andrews Government to close Hazelwood and make a real plan to support coal-dependent communities as our energy sector is transformed.