NSW Land and Environment Court Chief Justice Brian Preston started his landmark February judgment on a Gloucester coal mine proposal with a sentence that became a rhyme.
"There is a valley, near Rocky Hill, that a coal mine proposes to cut and fill," he said.
By the end of the judgment Justice Preston put his name, and the Gloucester community, in the history books with the first rejection of a NSW coal mine that included a consideration of the mine's greenhouse gas emissions.
Mine proponent Gloucester Resources lodged a development application for Rocky Hill in December, 2012. It was amended in 2016 with a proposal that would have disturbed about 500 hectares of land in the beautiful Gloucester valley area.
Residents' group Gloucester Groundswell campaigned against the Rocky Hill mine after years of campaigning against AGL and its plans for gas wells in the area. In both cases residents were successful. In both cases they used facts and evidence to say why the projects would have significant negative impacts on the Gloucester area.
As Justice Preston noted, Rocky Hill was a proposal in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
The greenhouse gas emissions of the coal mine would increase global total concentrations "at a time when what is now urgently needed, in order to meet generally agreed climate targets, is a rapid and deep decrease in greenhouse gas emissions", Justice Preston said.
"These dire consequences should be avoided."
Gloucester Resources indicated it would appeal the decision to the NSW Supreme Court but at the 11th hour on Wednesday, it said it would not appeal and the Rocky Hill mine "will not proceed".
It has been a very long and difficult journey for the Gloucester community. While both projects held out promises of jobs, they also had significant costs, both locally and globally, as Justice Preston found.
The AGL gas project and the Rocky Hill mine divided the community. But as Justice Preston noted, the topographic features of the Gloucester valley are unique. Despite geographic forces lifting coal close to the surface, sometimes the coal has to stay in the ground. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's groundbreaking.
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