Community and environment groups in the Lower Hunter have launched a campaign and petition against the Morrison government's proposed gas-powered power plant at Kurri Kurri.
The Gas Free Hunter alliance has gained 3400 signatures on an online petition and plans to hold protests outside the offices of Cessnock MP Clayton Barr and NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean this week.
Alliance member Janet Murray, who ran for the Greens in the federal seat of Hunter at the 2019 election, called on the NSW government to reject the federal government's application to build the $600 million peaking power station on the former Hydro Aluminium site outside Kurri Kurri.
The NSW Department of Planning has placed the plans on public exhibition and is inviting submissions until Wednesday next week.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced last month that the Snowy Hydro-owned plant would run on diesel then natural gas but could also run on green hydrogen if the fuel became commercially viable.
Mr Taylor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Snowy Hydro and local Labor MPs Joel Fitzgibbon and Meryl Swanson argue the plant will secure supply and keep gas prices down when Liddell power station closes in 2023.
Energy analysts, including the head of the government's Energy Security Board, have criticised the project as unnecessary as existing plants combined with rapidly expanding renewables offer enough peaking power in the electricity grid and gas is a relatively expensive energy source.
The environmental impact statement for the project says the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment advised Snowy Hydro on March 30 that the project is "an action taken by a Commonwealth agency that is likely to have a significant impact on the environment".
DAWE told Snowy Hydro that the plant would generate emissions and pollutants which may harm air quality and potentially "disturb contaminated and/or acid-sulphate soils ... with potential flow-on impacts to surface or ground water".
The EIS says the plant will run on average for two per cent of the time and create 10 full-time jobs.
Ms Murray said Mr Kean should reject the plant and "fulfil his pledge to make NSW a renewable energy superpower".
"We're in a climate crisis, you've got the International Energy Agency telling you no more fossil fuel projects if you want to meet the Paris targets, and you've had every climate scientist in the world, just about, telling you that for the last couple of years," she said.
"We think it's time for the politicians to listen to the scientists."
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Ms Murray said the Kurri Kurri community would be better served by projects on the Hydro Aluminium site which restored more of the 600 jobs lost when the smelter closed in 2014.
She said the plant could conflict with housing and industrial subdivisions in and around the Hydro Aluminium redevelopment site.
"I do think there should have been some information meeting in Kurri for anyone in Kurri and Cliftleigh, Heddon Greta, Weston. All of those area are pretty damn close to this thing."
Snowy Hydro boss Paul Broad said in a senate estimates hearing last week that a Queensland blackout at the time, caused by a power plant explosion, was evidence gas would continue to be a crucial back-up power source in times of high demand.
Australia Institute think tank climate and energy adviser Mark Ogge told the Newcastle Herald that renewables backed up by battery storage and pumped hydro was cheaper than gas.
Snowy's Colongra gas plant on the Central Coast did not supply electricity into the grid during three recent demand spikes in NSW when prices hit $7000 a megawatt hour.
It offered to supply electricity at $15,000 a megawatt hour, but Tomago Aluminium opted to shut down some of its power-sucking smelting pots instead.
"Snowy have a track record of not supplying power when it's needed to push up electricity prices or offering to supply it at a ridiculously high cost," Mr Ogge said.
"Why would you give them $600 million of taxpayers' money to do more of the same?
"There is no reason to think they will supply power from a Kurri Kurri plant at a reasonable price."
The Gas Free Hunter alliance includes Australian Parents for Climate Action, Climate Action Newcastle, Coalfields for Climate Action, Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield and Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action.
Note: In an earlier version of this report, Gas Free Hunter said Beyond Zero Emissions was part of the alliance. Beyond Zero says it is not part of the group.
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