AT first glance, the state government's new "strategic statement on coal exploration and mining in NSW" looks like an attempt to navigate a middle course between the extremes of the energy debate, and to recognise the realities of the Paris Agreement.
The statement's introduction talks of the government "being proactive" in adapting to "the international trend of reducing carbon emissions", and building trust by "working with communities on their long-term sustainability".
There is a plan to "improve certainty as to where mining should not occur", and to "address community concerns about the impacts of coal mining".
Environmental groups even thanked Deputy Premier John Barilaro for being a Resources Minister who finally acknowledged global climate concerns.
But with NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee on one side, and his fellow Nationals MP Michael Johnsen on the other, Mr Barilaro is clearly siding with the coal industry and its 22,000 employees, rather than the environmental movement, or even his own government's target of zero-net-emissions for NSW by 2050.
Although a new map of the state's coal fields, also released yesterday, includes vast areas of the Hunter where no "proactive" coal exploration can occur, it also allows existing mines to expand, domino-like, into the same regions. Five potentially lucrative but controversial coal areas are also sterilised against mining, but as Mr Barilaro later acknowledged, these sites had already been relinquished.
Many Newcastle Herald readers will welcome the Berejiklian government's continued support of the coal industry: and given that Mr Barilaro confirmed the strategy had been approved by the Cabinet, that is how it should be interpreted.
Despite the rapid advance of wind and solar power, the intermittent nature of renewably-generated electricity will remain a crucial shortcoming without a big breakthrough in electricity storage. Until such a development occurs, it is difficult to disagree with the government when it says demand for NSW thermal coal - most of it mined in and around the Hunter and shipped through Newcastle - will remain strong for decades to come. Even if the industry itself continues to struggle, reputationally.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.