When thinking about fossil fuel phase-outs: The key word is ‘unabated’

*This textual analysis is a follow up to my op-ed for Off-Guardian in November 2021. It’s a long read, but you will see how the realities I pointed out in during COP 26 were papered over through management of language in the intervening months.

Qualifying language makes a statement less certain. Any leader who says that they want to “phase out fossil fuels” will receive applause from climate warriors and have their message amplified in the media. For media organs like The Guardian and the various climate activist NGOs and think tanks, applause is all that matters. When conforming to particular attention-metrics yielding narratives, climate warriors and their stenographer friends in the media will ignore crucial qualifying language.

The word ‘unabated’ is the preeminent qualifier applied to language relating to phasing out fossil fuels under net zero modelling and commitments. Its application makes statements and commitments less certain by assigning them to one category of fossil fuels – those with CO2 abatement applied. When stenographers and narrative slaves choose not to attend to the uncertainty caused by the qualifier ‘unabated’, they are choosing to misinform the people.

The qualifier

The think tank E3G put out a good explainer on the meaning of ‘unabated’ ahead of COP26 in June 2021. In essence ‘unabated’ means: without some form of carbon capture and storage applied.

In May and June 2021, the term featured prominently in the IEA’s Net Zero Energy report and the official communiques from meetings of G7 Ministers and Leaders.

[SOURCE]

The term appears 52 times in the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report. In the Summary for Policy Makers – ‘Priority Action’ section, a call is made for a “massive clean energy expansion”.

Policies should limit or provide disincentives for the use of certain fuels and technologies, such as unabated coal‐fired power stations, gas boilers and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

[SOURCE]

Ignoring the qualifier

There are any number of examples of stenographers and pundits ignoring the qualifying term in question. Fiona Harvey ignored the ‘unabated’ qualifier when the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report was released in May 2021.

No new oil, gas or coal development if world is to reach net zero by 2050, says world energy body: Governments must close gap between net zero rhetoric and reality, says International Energy Agency head

When discussing Fatih Birol’s position on new technology, Harvey underplays the scope of CCS technology in development. The role projected for biomass as a feed stock and fossil hydrogen production at new decarbonisation hubs in Europe should be explored. The decarbonisation hubs planned around the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line should be considered when claims that CCS has not been proven ‘at scale’ are made. Blue ammonia import deals being hammered out in Asia should be analysed and the oil and gas giants like Saudi Aramco and Woodside making those deals should be investigated. The new CO2 pipelines proposed for Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, Nebraska and Wyoming should be explained in terms of the political will and long term legislative efforts behind their development.

The crucial new technologies in development are: advanced batteries, particularly for use in electric vehicles; hydrogen; and carbon capture.

[SOURCE]

Damian Carrington provided a classic example of misrepresentation through silence in September 2021.

In May, an IEA report concluded that there could be no new oil, gas or coal development if the world was to reach net zero by 2050.

[SOURCE]

The Executive Director of the IEA, Fatih Birol used the ‘unabated’ qualifier in a session on ‘Navigating the Energy Transition’ at Davos Agenda in January 2022. He wasn’t ignoring the qualifier, but rather he was forefronting energy efficiency. His comments were largely ignored.

Either we continue to use unabated fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and live with climate change, much more frequent extreme weather events, or we change the way we produce and consume energy.

[SOURCE]

The recent ‘carbon bombs’ series at The Guardian entirely avoided the crucial qualifier and reasserted the unqualified claim made a year earlier.

The IEA advised almost exactly a year ago that no new gas, oil or coal development could take place from this year onwards if the world was to limit global heating to 1.5C.

The Guardian seem to be keen to avoid mention of the over-reliance on CCS in modelling and phase out-out commitments. In order to make the ‘carbon bombs’ argument they need to frame out the political will for CCS and the state of its development. In their 13 May 2022 article they included a picture of the Saudi Aramco, Hawiyah NGL gas plant which deploys CCS and pipes the produced CO2 to an enhanced oil recovery project. They did not mention that the Hawiyah NGL plant was a CCS facility. Surely a gas CCS plant is not a prime example of a carbon bomb?

[SOURCE]

The 195 projects listed in The Guardian ‘carbon bombs’ series were identified in the study titled ‘“Carbon Bombs” – Mapping key fossil fuel projects’. The study which was revised in February 2022 makes no specific mention of “unabated” fossil fuels, biomass or CCS, but it does contain an assertion that completely negates the existence of the ‘unabated’ qualifier and the stated strategies for deploying large scale CCS outlined in the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report.

The recent IEA roadmap for net zero by 2050 which arrived at the conclusion that no new oil and gas fields nor coal mines are needed (Bouckaert et al., 2021) aligns well with the argument

[SOURCE]

The IEA Net Zero by 2050 report uses the ‘unabated’ qualifier liberally, but it also spells out clearly the infrastructure needed for large scale CCS.

And the required roll‐out of hydrogen and CCUS after 2030 means laying the groundwork now: annual investment in CO2 pipelines and hydrogen-enabling infrastructure increases from USD 1 billion today to around USD 40 billion in 2030.

Fossil Fuel Treaty, an organisation spearheaded by Tzeporah Berman made a subtle acknowledgment that the IEA modelling allows future opportunities for CCS in their May 2021 media release. In doing so they contradicted their headline. They also made no mention of the crucial qualifier.

Headline:

New IEA scenario finds fossil fuel expansion is needless and incompatible with 1.5°C

Subtle acknowledgement:

At the same time, the IEA net zero report ignores the imperative of winding down oil, gas and coal production.

[SOURCE]

In an April 2022 media release Fossil Fuel Treaty selectively quoted the IPCC Working Group 3 on mitigation AR6 contribution, and provided a misleading headline. The term ‘unabated’ appears 21 times in the report. Section C on ‘system transformation’ contains the quote provided by Fossil Fuel Treaty in their media release. For contrast: the text immediately following the quote that was selected by Fossil Fuel Treaty contains an explanation of how “modelled mitigation strategies” support “transitioning from fossil fuels without CCS”.

Headline:

IPCC report reaffirms urgency to phase out fossil fuels to stave off climate crisis

Carefully selected IPCC quote:

all global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot

[SOURCE]

Here’s the full quote from the ‘Working Group III Contribution
to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)’.

C.3 All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors. Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning from fossil fuels without CCS to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO 2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions.

[SOURCE]

Oil Change International (OCI) need to be called out for their vigorous efforts at ignoring the crucial qualifier. The headline on their press release following the publication of the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report fails to reflect the space held for CCS in the future. They selectively quote the report which contains the contradictory phrase that helped facilitate misrepresentation. This can be seen in the quote provided in David Turnbull’s comment. The authors celebrated the IEA report as a “tremendous win” while simultaneously acknowledging the projected “4,000 percent increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030”. One of the authors went on to argue that the IEA is not “accelerating the phase-out of fossil gas and coal” by “banking” on CCS. This is, in effect, an admission that the IEA are promoting a phase out of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels rather than all fossil fuels as their headline and selective quoting suggests.

Headline:

IEA’s first 1.5°C-aligned scenario bolsters call for no new fossil fuel extraction

David Turbull:

Critically, the 1.5°C-aligned scenario finds “no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply.” This represents a break from past IEA reports that boosted new oil and gas development by focusing on scenarios that steered the world towards catastrophic levels of warming. As next steps towards reform, energy analysts are calling on the IEA to transform the WEO to focus on 1.5°C-aligned policies and investments and fix persistent modelling flaws. The new scenario continues to underestimate wind and solar while overselling riskier, more polluting alternatives.

Kelly Trout:

It’s huge to have the world’s most influential energy modellers bolstering the global call to stop licensing and financing new fossil fuel extraction. Governments, banks, and Big Oil and Gas companies can no longer use the IEA as a shield to claim that their support for fossil fuel expansion is consistent with the Paris Agreement. The IEA’s own modelling now shows new oil and gas fields are not compatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

David Tong:

Today’s report is a tremendous win for climate advocates who have been demanding that the IEA align its analysis and communications with the critical 1.5?C limit. While we applaud the IEA for taking this step, they can rest assured that advocates will continue pushing for the institution to complete the job. Gambling the climate on a 4,000 percent increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030 is extraordinarily risky and, the IEA’s own analysis shows, not necessary. Instead of banking on a consistently underperforming and still polluting technology, the IEA should be accelerating the phase-out of fossil gas and coal by relying on proven wind and solar solutions.

[SOURCE]

At the same moment that the OCI authors were ignoring the crucial qualifier, Kelly Trout was unironically pointing out the difference between the IEA headlines and their CCS gamble without ever mentioning the word ‘unabated’ or quoting one of the 52 instances in which the word appears in the IEA report. Again, the headline didn’t match the details revealled in the body.

Headline:

IEA’s First 1.5°C Climate Model Rejects New Fossil Fuel Extraction

Body:

Clinging to fossil gas. By gambling on a massive scale-up of CCS taking away some of its emissions, the IEA’s 1.5°C scenario also makes room for dangerous levels of fossil gas reliance this decade.

[SOURCE]

A year after the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report was released and 6 months on from COP 26, David Tong and Kelly Trout, along with an extensive list of NGO supporters, produced ‘Big Oil Reality Check 2022’. This time the introduction continued the misrepresentation of the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report and the World Energy Outlook 2021.

Also in 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that there is no room for new fossil fuel expansion beyond fields and mines already under development in its first-ever full 1.5°C-aligned scenario

Here are some quotes directly from the OCI report that reveal the real agenda.

To achieve its targets while continuing to produce fossil fuels, Shell plans to use large volumes of carbon sequestration and offsets

Equinor plans to rely heavily on CCS

ExxonMobil expressly aims to rely heavily on CCS

BP’s targets explicitly depend on CCS

Though Eni has set a 2050 “net zero” target…the company’s climate goals depend on extensive uses of CCS

TotalEnergies plans to rely significantly on technological CCS, alongside afforestation and other “nature based solutions”

The IEA’s 1.5°C scenario depends on less carbon dioxide removal than some other scenarios, but still includes a 4,000 percent increase in energy sector CCS by 2030

[SOURCE]

Last minute changes to the COP 26 draft text

On 4 November 2022, a week before the first draft text came out, The Guardian reported on the commitments lauded by the UK establishment. On that day COP 26 produced multiple statements with the word ‘unabated’ used frequently as a qualifier when discussing coal phase-outs and fossil fuel phase-outs. Again the headline misrepresented statements being cited.

Headline:

More than 40 countries agree to phase out coal-fired power

Reasserting an untruth:

The IEA has said all new development of fossil fuels must cease from this year, if the world is to stay within the 1.5C limit.

[SOURCE]

39 countries signed the ‘Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition’.

the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and IEA net-zero analysis show that in the pathways consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global production and use of unabated fossil fuels must decrease significantly by 2030;

[SOURCE]

45 countries signed the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’.

Unabated’ coal power generation is described by the G7 and the IEA as referring to the use of coal power that is not mitigated with technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).

[SOURCE]

On the same day that the transition statements were released the UNFCCC put out a misleading headline that was not supported by the body of the text.

Headline:

End of Coal in Sight at COP26

Body:


At least 25 countries and public finance institutions commit to ending international public support for the
unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022

[SOURCE]

On 10 November 2021 the first draft agreement was released. The word ‘unabated’ does not appear and the phase out commitment is specific to coal and subsidies.19.

Calls upon Parties to accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels;

[SOURCE]

On 11 November 2021 it was reported that climate advocates found the first draft to be “vague” and lacking in ambition. A new draft would need to be hammered out.

A new version of the draft agreement text is expected to be published at some point Thursday night, but COP26 President Alok Sharma made it clear the negotiations are far from over — so don’t be surprised if they continue past the deadline.

[SOURCE]

When The Guardian reported on the second and final draft on 12 November 2021 they quoted both key phase-out texts, but focused on the word “inefficient” with regard to subsidies rather than “unabated” with regard to mitigation. The headline asserts that the language has “softened”, but there’s nothing in the article to suggest that the inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ was part of that softening.

Headline:

Second Cop26 draft text: Coal phaseout remains in but some language softened

Body:

The latest draft proposal from the Cop26 chair, released soon after 7am on Friday in Glasgow, calls on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.The addition of “inefficient” could help countries that want to retain some fuel subsidies for the poor, while removing subsidies for major fossil fuel interests. This change to the language could also provide cover for countries that want to retain subsidies, however.

The word ‘unabated’ appears 3 times in the article. 2 of those instances can be found in a quote by Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. In the quote he sums up the concession position on CCS held by the members of the Design to Win group of philanthropies and many of the recipients of funding spearheaded by John Podesta.

The call for countries to phase-out unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies is very important and historic. Unabated coal power releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and all subsidies for fossil fuels are inefficient.

[SOURCE]

Item 19 in the first draft agreement became item 20 in the second and final draft. Unlike the transition commitments made a week before, the qualifier ‘unabated’ is only applied to coal power rather than to fossil fuels in general.

20. Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up clean power generation and accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels;

[SOURCE]

In a 12 November 2021 article titled ‘COP26 cop-out on coal as fossil fuel phaseout diluted’, Helen Mountford, World Resources Institute vice-president for climate and economics identified the inclusion of the word ‘inefficient’ as a weakening point.

but the reference to “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies “does weaken that a little”.

[SOURCE]

On 13 November 2021 statements from Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan were published. Morgan described the outcomes from COP 26 as weak, but stated they send a “signal”. The inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ in relation to phasing out coal power suggests to me that coal extraction will only end when we have dug it all up. Does Morgan not see this?

It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.

Morgan, who is now Germany’s special climate envoy described the phase-out item as a “breakthrough” despite its weakness. It’s hard to tell if the inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ is the reason Morgan perceives the phase-out item as weak. Greenpeace International have provided weak resistance to CCS development, but are on record as critical of an over-reliance on CCS and offsets.

The line on phasing out unabated coal and fossil fuel subsidies is weak and compromised but its very existence is nevertheless a breakthrough, and the focus on a just transition is essential.

[SOURCE]

The contradictions of Guterres

On the night before Greta Thunberg’s big speech in New York in September 2019 the UN Secretary General’s special adviser gave an address to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). I don’t believe the remarks were ever meant to be made public, but a group of activists made it into the swanky event. It’s unlikely they knew the significance of the transcript they provided to the journalist Emily Atkin who was a favourite of Bill McKibben at the time. It’s unlikely that any of the activists were aware of the embargoed media release which contained an announcement of the OGCI’s massive global ‘Kickstarter’ plan to fund CCS decarbonisation hubs.

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Your industry has the assets and the expertise to demonstrate the ambition we need and to lead the way. The world needs, and is demanding, an ambitious road map to reduce the carbon intensity of your industry, and to demonstrate your commitment to align with the goals of the Paris agreement.

Robert Orr, Special Adviser to Antonio Guterres, September 22, 2019

[SOURCE]

At the completion of COP 26 Guterres gave a pre-recorded address in which he neglected to acknowledge the ‘unabated’ qualifier.

I reaffirm my conviction that we must end fossil fuels subsidies. Phase out coal.

[SOURCE]

Guterres continues to ignore the qualifier. In recent tweets Guterres has echoed the sentiments he expressed at COP 26, but not the sentiments he expressed via his assistant in that luxury New York hotel with the world’s wealthiest oil and gas executives.

17 June 2022:

For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested in pseudo-science & public relations, with a false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change & undermine ambitious climate policies. They exploited the same scandalous tactics as Big Tobacco decades before.

[SOURCE]

19 June 2022:

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity & a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels – especially coal – and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.

[SOURCE]

Why has Guterres neglected to attend to the significance of the ‘unabated’ qualifier? Is he too a narrative slave like most of the climate justice movement? It’s clear that in not attending to the qualifier he poses no threat to the OGCI.

Hoping we’ll forget

In the muddied waters of time, most of the disingenuousness, douchebaggery and outright deception will be disappeared or be forgotten. Is this what the stenographers, pundits, NGO spokespersons and leaders are hoping for? How will the narrative framers respond as many of the projects they currently ignore come to fruition? Perhaps John Podesta and the billionaire philanthropists he represents have already got a plan?

We should remember that the captains of industry always like to turn a waste product into a feed stock for value adding. There are numerous examples of waste products being used as fillers, and there are celebrated examples of companies transforming their waste products into cost lowering and even profitable revenue streams. CO2 has, for decades, been viewed by the fossil fuel industry as a waste product that could be transformed into a valuable feed stock. This is precisely what is being deployed by virtually every major fossil fuel company on the planet. Is it conceivable that the oldest and wealthiest pillar of industrial globalist power could contrive to use philanthropy and every other covert means available to shape and compromise the resistance to their efforts? It certainly is!

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A problem of foreseeable demand: Cameron Dick, Adani and the QCA

I stumbled onto the opportunity to make a request for declaration of Adani’s rail corridor as a ‘service’ by chance. I was seeking information from the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) about the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) declaration request made in October 2019 when they made me aware that I could make a request. QCA staff informed me that the MCG request was found to be “out of scope” and no recommendations were given to the treasurer for consideration. I recognised an opportunity to access valuable information about Adani’s secretive rail plans.

A short statement was placed on the QCA website following the MCG request:

On 24 October 2019, we received a request from the Mackay Conservation Group to review and recommend declaration of Adani Australia’s proposed Carmichael rail network for regulation by the QCA under Part 5 of the QCA Act.

After review it was determined that at the time there was no scope for the QCA to substantively consider the request to declare the proposed Carmichael rail network.

https://www.qca.org.au/project/declared-infrastructure/

I have to say the QCA did not manage my expectations well. I didn’t get a sense that they deal with members of the public very often, but they provided me with every courtesy that the QCA Act would allow. I semi-blindly worked my way through the submission process which included an opportunity to respond to material from Adani.

When my contact at the QCA informed me that they had provided recommendations to the treasurer following my request, I asked if that meant it was found to be “in scope”, but they declined to give me an answer. Clearly the QCA provided recommendations following my request because the infrastructure making up the ‘facility’ providing the ‘service’ was more developed than it was in October 2019 allowing them to substantively consider my application. The consideration given by the QCA is outlined in their letter of recommendations provided to the treasurer:

We provided Mr Swifte with an opportunity to comment on Adani’s submissions, including Adani’s submission that his request was not made in good faith.

https://www.qca.org.au/project/declared-infrastructure/

The QCA recommended that my request be found to be in ‘bad faith’, but the treasurer found that my request did not satisfy the access criteria and decided against making a declaration on that basis. The most significant failing of my request was the lack of supporting information regarding foreseeable demand and the dependent markets that come with that demand.

*The problem we have is that all the other proposed Galilee Basin coal mines have been effectively mothballed while Adani has established its own: vertically integrated rail corridor developer and rail infrastructure manager; rolling stock operators; and port operations. Without any firm information about other market operators and their service providers there is no way to foresee demand.

While my request failed to secure a declaration, it succeeded in unpacking some key components of Adani’s plans to make their rail corridor operational.

The following statement can be found on the QCA website along with links to the QCA recommendations and the treasurer’s statement of reasons:

On 6 September 2021, we received a request to review and recommend declaration of the Carmichael rail network service under Part 5 of the QCA Act.

Part 5 sets out the criteria for declaration recommendations, as well as the steps that are required before we can recommend to the Minister that a service be declared.

On 17 December, we provided our recommendation (see below) to the Minister, in accordance with section 79(1) of the QCA Act.

On 17 March, the Treasurer’s decision on this matter was published in the Queensland Government Gazette (Extraordinary Queensland Government Gazette no 41, vol 389).

https://www.qca.org.au/project/declared-infrastructure/

*Link for the QCA Act: Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 (legislation.qld.gov.au)

An opportunity to comment and a positive outcome

The QCA gave me the opportunity to add to my initial request and respond to two letters provided by Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow representing Adani’s rail proponent Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. While both letters made roughly the same arguments, the second was supported by legal advice regarding requests made in bad faith, the ‘service’ under consideration and the QCA Act access criteria. I had the opportunity to offer counter-arguments to Lucas Dow’s assertions about the non-operational state of the Carmichael Rail Network (CRN). Cameron Dick and Shane Doyle QC both concurred with my interpretation of Section 72 of the QCA Act.

In a letter to the QCA CEO on September 15, 2021 Lucas Dow stated:

The CRN remains under construction and has not been commissioned (and is therefore not yet operational). At this point, it is not a facility that is sufficiently developed to be capable of supplying a service of the kind contemplated by s 77(1) of the QCA Act.

I responded on October 4, 2021 by arguing that the QCA Act can apply to a service that can be provided in the future:

In regard to the assertion that because the Carmichael Rail Network is not yet commissioned or operational and therefore “it is not a facility that is sufficiently developed to be capable of supplying a service of the kind contemplated by s 77(1) of the QCA Act.”, I would direct you to Section 70 ‘Meaning of a facility’ and Section 72 ‘Meaning of service’ of the QCA Act. Section 70(1)(a) reads “rail transport infrastructure”. Section 72(1) reads “Service is a service provided or to be provided, by means of a facility”.

In a letter to the QCA CEO on October 5, 2021 Lucas Dow restated his position:

(i) The CRN is not operational, and no coal has been railed, so matters such as the likely cost of the facility and technical and operational characteristics of the facility and service are not able to be determined.

The redacted legal advice letter dated October 8, 2021 that accompanied the Lucas Dow letter dated October 5, 2021 contains an interpretation of the QCA Act, Section 72(1) that concurred with my interpretation. Section 4.2 of the ‘Statement of Reasons’ provided to me by the Queensland Treasury Office on March 16, 2022 contains a refutation of Lucas Dow’s argument.

4.2.5 I accept the submissions made by Mr Swifte and in Mr Doyle’s advice that the QCA Act permits declaration of a service that is anticipated or a future service or a service associated with an anticipated or future facility. For this reason, I do not accept Adani’s submission that the application for declaration cannot be assessed in relation to the CRN service/facility as it is not sufficiently developed.

https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/04ee3497-3d7f-4550-9caa-6b0f1d4e6b4d/18.03.22-combined.pdf?ETag=%2281667823cfcc78147f4e99be688bc7cf%22

On October 27, 2021 I sent through my final responses in support of my request. This was the same day that Bowen Rail Company received its rolling stock operator accreditation from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR). One week earlier Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd varied their ONRSR accreditation for the third time that year. I had been so busy with my various complaints to the Office of the Coordinator-General and the Ombudsman that I had neglected to check the ONRSR website which had switched to real time reporting of new accreditations and variations.

On November 15, 2021 Bowen Rail Company were delayed by activists while load testing their new locomotives on Aurizon rail infrastructure. By late December Adani were claiming that they had their first shipment of export coal ready to go. It is clear that the rail infrastructure was very close to being operational at the time I made my request.

Defining the facility and the service ‘to be provided’

Lucas Dow’s redacted October 5, 2022 letter includes the assertion that my description of ‘the service’ which was amended at the request of the QCA was wrong in every key respect:

(A) fails to properly define the facility, the service or the owner/operator;

The information that would clarify my understanding and support the Adani CEO’s argument is either not included in the letter/legal advice or is part of the redacted sections of each document.

Here’s my description of ‘the service’ before making amendments to improve clarity which I negotiated with QCA staff:

Rail service infrastructure known as Carmichael Rail Network generally and as the North Galilee Basin Rail Project combined with Separable Portion 1 of the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project specifically.

The amended description of ‘the service’:

the service that is the use of the Rail service infrastructure known as Carmichael Rail Network generally and as the North Galilee Basin Rail Project combined with Separable Portion 1 of the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project specifically

In my request I asserted that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were the likely owner/operator of the service to be provided having assumed rail infrastructure management accreditations in May 2017 when they were relinquished by Adani Mining Pty Ltd. Documents exist on the public record explaining that the CRN is constituted of two sections attached to two projects, but sharing a single proponent, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. One of those documents is titled ‘Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd: Supporting Information for an Application for a Water Licence to Take Unallocated Water from the Strategic Reserve in Sub-Catchment E of the Burdekin Basin’ that was included in the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy right to information disclosure 16-417 made to Lock the Gate. The application for a water licence by Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd was intended to facilitate the North Galilee Water Scheme.

At the time of the application Adani Mining Pty Ltd were still listed as the rail proponent by the Office of the Coordinator-General. It was not until May 2018 that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were formally acknowledged as the rail proponent for both the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) and North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR).

Here is a quote from RTI 16-417(A). I’ve made key phrases bold for emphasis:

Due to the size of the Project, Adani Mining has progressed the assessment for much of the rail, and the Port, separately to the CCP. The entire rail line from the mine to the Port of Abbot Point will be approximately 388 kilometres (km) long, known as the Carmichael Rail Network (CRN). The proponent for the CRN is the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd as trustee for the Carmichael Rail Network Trust.


The CRN will comprise one contiguous rail corridor that has been subject to two separate assessments: the first 77 km (called the Carmichael Rail Line) was included in the CCP EIS and SEIS documentation, whilst the remaining 311 km was assessed as the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR Project).

The Carmichael Rail Line starts from the proposed Carmichael Mine, and heads east towards Mistake Creek west of the Gregory Developmental Road. This section of rail was assessed as part of the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project EIS, SEIS and AEIS, in which it was known as Separable Portion 1 (SP1). The NGBR section of rail consists of approximately 311 km standard gauge rail from the connection with SP1 to the Port of Abbot Point.

‘Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd: Supporting Information for an Application for a Water Licence to Take Unallocated Water from the Strategic Reserve in Sub-Catchment E of the Burdekin Basin’

The meaning of “not made in good faith”

I have never made a secret of the fact that I don’t want Adani’s rail corridor to succeed. Competition law in Queensland is founded on the assumption that infrastructure that is already approved and under development should exist and function well. My world view does not embrace the primacy of resource development and I have no faith in the regulatory frameworks and functions that are currently in place. My stated intention was to disclose information about the operations of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd in anticipation of the opening of the means of export for Galilee Basin coal.

In the recommendations provided by the QCA is a quote from my final responses that captures my intentions and appeals to the desire for effective regulation:

I am exercising my fiduciary responsibility as a citizen/resident of Queensland to support the development of a political economy that does not damage the rights and interests of those impacted by infrastructure of ‘state significance’. Providing the QCA with ample time to investigate an anticipated facility that is to provide a service can help deliver robust regulation and transparency to support competition.

https://www.qca.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/request-for-declaration-recommendation-carmichael-rail-network.pdf

My request was assessed under Part 5 of the QCA Act which identifies a concern with “significant infrastructure” in Section 69(E), Object of Part 5:

The object of this part is to promote the economically efficient operation of, use of and investment in, significant infrastructure by which services are provided, with the effect of promoting effective competition in upstream and downstream markets.

Part 5: Section 76(2)(c) on ‘access criteria’ states:

that the facility for the service is significant, having regard to its size or its importance to the Queensland economy;

The idea of ‘importance’ to the economy is the object under contestation for some First Nations people, some farmers, environmentalists and climate campaigners. It is the fact that I want to see Adani’s rail corridor scrutinised in the public sphere and that I see the importance of the CRN not succeeding that I was not seen as making my request in ‘good faith’.

Shane Doyle QC cited a phrase from case law “fidelity to the bargain” in reference to how ‘good faith’ might be understood under the QCA Act:

an obligation to act honestly and with a fidelity to the bargain; an obligation not to act dishonestly and not to act to undermine the bargain entered or the substance of the contractual benefit bargained for; and an obligation to act reasonably and with fair dealing having regard to the interests of the parties (which will, inevitably, at times conflict) and to the provisions, aims and purposes of the contract, objectively ascertained.

https://jade.io/article/388086

Paciocco v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd [2015] FCAFC 50 – BarNet Jade – BarNet Jade

The way I understand it: I entered into a preexisting bargain in which the success of infrastructure deemed “significant” by government and industry is assumed to be the primary objective.

A trigger for the treasurer

Under the QCA Act, Section 77(2) Cameron Dick can choose to declare a service without the need for a request from an industry group, advocacy organisation or member of the public:

The Minister may ask the authority to consider whether a particular service should be declared by the Minister.

Section 79(5) of the QCA Act affirms that “the Minister” can make a request to the QCA for declaration:

Unless the request is made by the Minister, the authority must give a copy of the request to the Minister with the recommendation.

The Queensland treasurer can expedite proceedings and bring a declaration forward, but he is limited by a lack of information regarding foreseeable demand. Without knowledge of the Adani-Aurizon access agreement we cannot know the upper limits for coal haulage on the CRN, and without a concrete upper limit for export volumes from the Carmichael mine in the short and long term we cannot properly assess the capacity for Adani to support the promised multi-user infrastructure. The decision to build a narrow gauge rail corridor places hard limits on expanding the CRN capacity beyond 60 mpta.

Waiting for the Aurizon-Adani access agreement

The announcement of an access agreement between Adani and Aurizon – which I’m assuming is already complete – is the next key event to take place. It will likely immediately precede commercial operation or coincide with the announcement of a start date. Adani are unlikely to allow a period of scrutiny of the deal with Aurizon before commercial operations begin.

I tried to sound out my contact at the QCA regarding the likelihood of an access agreement coming through very soon, but they were not forthcoming. Access agreements are squarely within the QCA remit. I’m working with the assumption that the QCA will be called-in when the access agreement is announced.

From my reading of the QCA Act I cannot discern any triggers for publication at any time near the announcement of commencement of commercial operations. It is the information that makes it onto the public record that is of vital importance right now. There appears to be plenty of scope in the QCA Act for the regulator to seek information from Aurizon as an access provider of a declared service and Adani as an access seeker.

All this is speculative of course. I am no expert at this stuff and I wish there were more specialists speaking up. As a generalist my expertise is not in competition law or economic development, but in unpacking processes, identifying primary sources, and recognising patterns in language and information giving. I’m mindful that the CRN project is unprecedented in the history of the QCA Act.

The multi-user promise and royalty deal

There is very little information on the public record regarding Adani’s revised rail corridor. I can’t explain why the Office of the Coordinator-General has not seen fit to update the NGBR project page. I imagine that severing more than 100km of rail corridor would require some kind of ‘change request’ under the State Development and Public Works Organisations Act. The most recent project variation for the NGBR under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) dated 25 August 2021 contains information about the “approved action” wherein the NGBR project is a 310km corridor. The variation document contains a map of the original NGBR corridor segmented into individual maps for each section including the sections that were severed in 2018. It should be noted that Adani Mining Pty Ltd remain the EPBC approval holder despite Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd being appointed as rail proponent for the NGBR and CCMR. Nothing exists on the public record to demonstrate how Adani’s revised rail corridor plan was instituted.

VARIATION OF CONDITIONS ATTACHED TO APPROVAL: North Galilee Basin Rail Project, Abbot Point to Galilee Basin, Queensland (EPBC 2013/6885)

http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/3666c674-2c09-ec11-80c8-00505684c137/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1649387035483

The royalty deferral deal is, in theory, contingent on Adani keeping their multi-user promise. This promise can only be kept if the access agreement and upgrades to Aurizon infrastructure demonstrate that Adani’s vertically integrated facility would retain sufficient capacity to provide a service to third parties. Other coal miners and their haulage providers would be the third parties seeking access to the CRN service. We don’t know if Adani’s statements about the capacity of the revised narrow gauge corridor are based in fact. The capacity of the original corridor was 100 mtpa with no need for an access agreement with Aurizon. The capacity of the new corridor is – as reported by Adani – is 40 mtpa. We are told in media statements put out by Adani that they will ramp up from 10 to 27.5 mtpa over a decade. It seems that without the QCA or the treasurer acting proactively, the QCA are forced to respond reactively to the approaches of third parties before any transparent multi-user framework can crystallise.

*The problem we have is that the Queensland government has used words like “open” and “transparent”, but each time they are tested they just kick the can down the road. We know almost nothing about the royalty deal, barely anything about the revised rail corridor, and nothing about how the Queensland government will make Adani keep its multi-user promise.

The claim made by the Queensland government is that under the secret ‘transparent policy framework’, Adani will be held to its multi-user promise. It is not clear how this instrument might be enforced other than by prospective third parties approaching the QCA with information about foreseeable demand. I imagine that in the worst case scenario the Queensland government would issue a demand for royalties with interest.

In his October 5, 2021 letter Lucas Dow stated that the policy to support the multi-user promise will be in place “at or around” the time the CRN commences operation. I can find no statements demonstrating that the Queensland government have made the timing of the release of Adani’s access policy clear. Any access policy would have to fit within the QCA Act access regime which is contingent upon the declaration of a service. Will Adani’s open access policy also be a secret?

Lucas Dow’s October 5, 2021 letter offers arguments to support the assertion that my request was “premature”. In this quote he indicates that an access framework has already been developed:

Adani has not yet put in place its commercial framework governing access to the CRN. As Mr Swifte is aware, Adani and the Queensland Government (State) have made clear that an open access policy will be put in place by Adani, at or around the time that it commences operation. [REDACTED]. It is impossible for the QCA to meaningfully assess the impact of declaration without understanding the access framework already intended to apply.

Forums where rail boffins discuss technical aspects can be informative though not always reliable. I was interested to read discussion about Adani’s shift from a standard gauge, vertically integrated rail corridor to the present largely unspecified arrangements. Like all of us the boffins are left to speculate. There appeared to be agreement that Adani reached for a ‘gold plated’ standard gauge corridor knowing they could scale back to narrow gauge.

A comment from a member of RailPage.com.au forum following the announcement of Adani’s Plan B rail corridor:

Adani likes vertical integration operations and tries to keep it’s mining, transport, ports and power generation in-house – which is where the stand-alone standard gauge line fits in. I suspect the company is now more interested in getting the coal out of the ground and making money rather than bleeding any more cash on this project.

Aurizon’s Newlands System will also need capacity upgrades to carry Adani’s traffic, this will almost certainly include double tracking several sections and extending RCS (CTC signalling) south from Collinsville to Newlands. Tonnages north of Collinsville could exceed 80-million tonnes if existing tonnages and Adani traffic are combined. I can’t say it’s clear who will be paying for those upgrades, but I assume some sort of agreement has been made prior to this announcement.

https://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11398398-0-asc-s0.htm

This is no time to give up

I’m still reeling from an interview I heard on local radio yesterday where a leader of the frontline resistance, a member of Frontline Action on Coal interviewed a leader of what I call the ‘distributed resistance’, a person variously affiliated with the StopAdani Alliance. The StopAdani aligned activist, now connected with a group called Tipping Point, effectively stated that other than pressuring some more companies and ‘standing in solidarity’ the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners resisting the mine, the battle had been lost. To be clear; I listened to a conversation between a person who is in the best position to stop Galilee Basin coal trains and a person who represents the efforts of the best funded NGOs in the climate justice movement, and it seemed like they had both given up on stopping Adani’s rail corridor from becoming operational.

For me the battle is just heating up. I would urge those with legal and public administration backgrounds to step in and interrogate Adani’s shell companies while being mindful of the bias against disclosure being demonstrated by the Queensland and federal governments. Only a clear and thorough understanding of the information that does and does not exist on the public record can help us to understand the shell games played by extractivist corporations and their friends in the establishment.

Bravus: Adani Australia’s blanket brand

Entities exist for reasons

It is crucial at this moment that we understand that Adani’s web of shell companies in Australia exist for reasons unknown, but comprehensible if we can get answers to the right questions. Adani entities such as Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd and Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd are enmeshed in Adani’s dealings over the rail corridor which is nearing completion, and the North Galilee Water Scheme which is under review. Adani Australia entities can refer to either of these 2 former shell companies as ‘Bravus’ in their communications on their website and in media statements under the language and framing contained in the Bravus privacy policy.

Exoneration mechanisms

Over the last 6 months I have sought answers to questions about the Adani entity names used in communications from the Queensland government department responsible for coordinating and regulating development projects and proponents including mining companies – the Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG). I made requests for clarification and information to a communications officer, but I was given a flat refusal. I submitted a complaint regarding ethical conduct of the officer and the department itself, sought an internal review, and then an external review with the Queensland Ombudsman. None of my efforts were successful.

After what I can only describe as a chain of exoneration and obfuscation where I am left with more questions than answers, I can make one clear statement:

The OCG are confident that they can refer to ‘Bravus’ rather than the listed proponents in their communications and in the commissioning of reports without consequence.

It might reasonably be expected that the OCG would use the names of the Adani entities it coordinates under the State Development and Public Works Organisations Act (SDPWO Act) in its communications, but a recent report on an investigation into allegations of environmental breaches on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) failed to identify Adani’s rail proponent or name the project where the alleged breaches took place and physical inspections had been conducted (including OCG staff). I wrote about how the OCG were “masking” the relevant project proponents in March and again in May this year.

The Office of the Coordinator-General and Adani: Masking the rail proponent

A very questionable investigation: The OCG, Adani and public sector ethics in Queensland

24 Adani entities

How is it that a business name that is the product of re-branding came to be used as a substitute for the specific entities coordinated and regulated by the OCG? Why do media and NGOs take little to no interest in unpacking Adani’s corporate structure and branding? The answer to both questions starts with a look at the Bravus Mining and Resources website.

The Bravus privacy policy is effectively a guide to understanding the language in Bravus branded communications. It frames what is meant when “we” or “us” statements are used.

At Bravus Mining & Resources (being one or more of the companies listed in the Appendix at the end of this privacy policy) (“Bravus Mining & Resources”), we are committed to protecting your privacy.


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https://www.bravus.com.au/privacy-policy/

Cached version of Bravus privacy policy page:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:https://www.bravus.com.au/privacy-policy

The appendix to the Bravus privacy policy lists 24 different Adani entities, none of which are ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’ which is listed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) as a business name with no ABN or ACN listed. Among those 24 different Adani entities are Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd who possess all the rail approvals, are in line for a water licence, are responsible for the CCMR – Separable Portion 1/Stage B – North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) pipeline corridor, were the likely NAIF loan applicant, and are said to possess the royalty deed for the Carmichael mine; and Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd who were central to the NGWS which is currently under review.

Quote from the Bravus privacy policy:

Appendix – Adani companies in Australia, which collect and use personal information

This list is accurate at the date of this privacy policy. For the latest list of Adani companies to which this privacy policy applies please contact our Privacy Officer.

MUNDRA PORT PTY LTD 61 150 498 098 150 498 098

ADANI ABBOT POINT TERMINAL PTY LTD 93 149 298 206 149 298 206

MUNDRA PORT HOLDINGS PTY LTD 94 150 520 835 150 520 835

MUNDRA PORT HOLDINGS TRUST 34 296 288 922 N/A

ADANI ABBOT POINT TERMINAL HOLDINGS PTY 17 154 644 685 154 644 685

ADANI MINING PTY LTD 27 145 455 205 145 455 205

ADANI MINERALS PTY LTD 32 151 649 740 151 649 740

GALILEE TRANSMISSION HOLDINGS PTY LTD 83 161 992 481 161 992 481

GALILEE TRANSMISSION PTY LTD 32 161 992 641 161 992 641

GALILEE TRANSMISSION HOLDINGS TRUST 98 979 077 365 N/A

ADANI AUSTRALIA COAL TERMINAL PTY LTD 77 163 186 383 163 186 383

ADANI AUSTRALIA COAL TERMINAL HOLDINGS 44 168 582 045 168 582 045

ADANI ABBOT POINT COMPANY PTY LTD 77 163 218 335 163 218 335

ADANI AUSTRALIA COMPANY PTY LTD 87 163 221 609 163 221 609

ADANI AUSTRALIA COAL TERMINAL FINANCE 62 601 738 578 601 738 578

ADANI ABBOT POINT HOLDING TRUST 14 212 294 591 N/A

ADANI AUSTRALIA HOLDING TRUST 80 796 296 329 N/A

CARMICHAEL RAIL PTY LTD 80 601 873 492 601 873 492

CARMICHAEL RAIL HOLDINGS PTY LTD 32 601 738 827 601 738 827

CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK PTY LTD 87 601 738 685 601 738 685

CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK HOLDINGS PTY 59 601 738 943 601 738 943

CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK TRUST 78 466 438 945 N/A

CARMICHAEL RAIL NETWORK HOLDINGS TRUST 52 857 090 548 N/A

ADANI INFRASTRUCTURE PTY LTD 16 606 764 827 606 764 827

Nothing official

When the media, NGO spokespeople and government departments repeat Adani’s statements without questioning if those statements should detail the entities regulated and coordinated under state and federal law, they are failing to properly inform the people. Adani Australia’s re-branding as Bravus was designed to suggest that its marquee company Adani Mining Pty Ltd, holder of the majority of environmental approvals and all Indigenous land use agreements, was the sole subject of the name change. Adani didn’t need to lie (though they kinda did and still kinda are), they simply anticipated the dearth of interrogation from the media and NGOs which allowed suggestion to do the work for them. It fooled me and everyone who wrote about the Bravus re-branding.

The Adani Mining Pty Ltd ASIC listing does not specify that they are trading as ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’. Adani Mining Pty Ltd are still the EPBC approval holder for both the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) and the North Galilee Basin Rail Project, and hold all Indigenous land use agreements. The introduction of the ‘Bravus Mining and Resources’ business name/brand was not accompanied by any change of name on any documents on the public record.

A statement can be found below Adani media releases hosted on the Bravus website that predate the branding exercise. This statement asserts that the name of “Adani Mining” which we can reasonably assume is a reference to “Adani Mining Pty Ltd” was “officially changed” to “Bravus Mining and Resources”.

On November 5th, Adani Mining officially changed it’s name to Bravus Mining and Resources.


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https://www.bravus.com.au/adani-partners-with-decmil-in-another-win-for-regional-queensland/

Recent changes

Sometime between September 19, 2021 and October 23, 2021, the ASIC listing for Bravus Mining and Resources was amended to include the details of the business name holder, Adani Mining Pty Ltd, including an ABN, and a business and mailing address. I was able to establish this fact by comparing ASIC summaries downloaded on the dates listed. The amended ASIC listing is the first piece of evidence placed on the public record showing that Adani Mining Pty Ltd has an official connection to the Bravus Mining and Resources business name. It raises the question of why Adani Mining Pty Ltd took 11 months to include basic information about its new business name on the public record. Perhaps they saw the tweet I sent to Ben Smee on September 21 or the email I sent to an Adani legal counsel on September 20?

A comparison of ASIC summaries showing recently amended information

The law and proper communications

While the government departments have built-in exoneration mechanisms, the media and NGO spokespeople can choose to take a more interrogatory approach that takes account of the web of Adani entities that exist under the Bravus brand. In theory this is the professional responsibility of journalists and their editors, and should be the imperative reflected in the output of various NGOs. Think tanks and environmental law firms should be the leaders in this regard, but they are not. I suspect this is because narrative framing and funding for particular themed campaigns has left the NGO sector without the necessary agility to identify and respond to Adani’s marketing strategies. In the process of failing to interrogate Adani’s branding the environmental NGOs and the media leave us all misinformed. In adopting the branded nomenclature of ‘Bravus’ over the names of the Adani entities coordinated and regulated under Queensland legislation, the OCG have allowed the Bravus re-branding to determine their communications.

A very questionable investigation: The OCG, Adani and public sector ethics in Queensland

Context

In March I published a blog post about developments along the Adani rail corridor. I looked closely at the role of the Office of the Coordinator General (OCG) in providing accurate and timely information to the public regarding Adani’s rail proponent via media statements and approval milestone documents published at the direction of the premier.

Blog post link: https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2021/03/30/the-office-of-the-coordinator-general-and-adani-masking-the-rail-proponent/

In my March blog post I followed 2 lines of inquiry regarding the Adani proponent for rail, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN). The first line of enquiry related to the OCG taking an excessive amount of time to announce that Adani had achieved it’s last approval milestone. The OCG responded by posting an update on the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) “Project overview” web page, but did not provide an explanation for their tardiness. The second line of inquiry related to the OCG statements provided to regional media regarding the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) & Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) complaint alleging environmental breaches by Adani contractors on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR). It is this second line of inquiry that I’d like to return to here.

Confused communications

In the 6 weeks between the publication of my March blog post and the announcement that the OCG had completed it’s investigation, I spent my time contacting editors, chiefs of staff, and NGO staff to ask them to look closely at the details in the media reports and statements from the OCG. It is my firm belief that the OCG ought to publish statements and instruct investigators on the basis of its statutory responsibilities. By this I mean that the OCG should always make media statements that reflect the precise nature of the work they do, the projects they coordinate and the relevant proponents for those coordinated projects. My efforts to clarify communications were a complete failure. The Mackay Conservation Group, Environmental Justice Australia, The Courier Mail chief of staff, and ABC editors could have held the OCG to account or at least made specific assertions based on information published by the OCG at any time, but they did not.

My March blog post and my attempts to engage with media, NGOs and the OCG were focused around clarifying 2 facts; that the proponent for the project under investigation is Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd; and that the name of the project is the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. I made the assertion over the phone, via email and through social media that the OCG is an agency with powers to make statutory decisions (under statute, law or legislation) and it ought to use the names of the project and proponent for which they are responsible in all their communications.

The following statement was given to me by an OCG spokesperson on March 23, after they had initiated their investigation and presumably provided instructions to their investigators:

Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was requested to, and did, provide information in relation to the alleged breach of conditions.

This statement alone does not confirm that the OCG were outright lying, but it does confirm what I expect should have taken place administratively under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act (SDPWO Act).

Melanie Whiting’s March 19 article contains the quote for which I sought clarification from the OCG. A comparison of the statement sent to me and the one provided to Melanie Whiting shows that information was requested and received, according to the OCG, by both Bravus Mining and Resources (Bravus) and CRN.

Bravus staff answer the phones and do liaison from the same Brisbane office address they share with CRN. There is no separate contact point or spokesperson for CRN. This suggests to me that the OCG could offer as a defence, the argument that the information itself was passed on by Bravus staff, but relates to CRN:

“Bravus has supplied information requested by the Coordinator-General, including details of the alleged event,” a spokesman for the Office of the Coordinator-General said.

“The Coordinator-General has independently engaged experts in sediment and erosion control and stormwater management to review the information.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2021/03/30/the-office-of-the-coordinator-general-and-adani-masking-the-rail-proponent/

The investigation concludes

On May 19, the day after Melanie Whiting again provided a quote from an OGC spokesperson which suggests that Bravus is responsible for alleged breaches along the NGBR corridor, I contacted the OCG to seek clarification:

I’m requesting a statement from a spokesperson for the CG’s office indicating the Adani proponent to which the Office of the Coordinator General ‘specified’ ‘improvements’.

The statement provided to Melanie Whiting by a spokesperson for the OCG suggests that the rail contractors associated with the alleged breaches are engaged by Bravus, but the public record does not indicate which Adani entity made the contracts with Martinus, Siemens and BMD. All we know is that their contracts are for the ‘Carmichael Rail Network’:

The Office of the Coordinator-General has specified the improvements which Bravus and their contractors need to put in place.

https://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/probe-into-alleged-rail-line-environmental-breach-/4260761/

I provided a question to an OCG Senior Communications Officer after reminding them of the previous statement they had provided to me indicating that they had been in contact with, and received information from CRN:

I’m requesting a statement from a spokesperson for the CG’s office indicating the Adani proponent to which the Office of the Coordinator General ‘specified’ ‘improvements’.

The statement that was emailed to me in response left me perplexed:

The Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) is the proponent for the Carmichael Rail Network project. As CRN is a Bravus entity, the Office of the Coordinator-General (OCG) has made reference to Bravus in the OCG’s media response regarding the investigation into erosion and sediment management.

On May 20 I again contacted the OCG Senior Communications Officer to confirm that my understanding of the facts and the functioning of the OCG were correct. I also requested clarification of the reasoning/basis behind the assignation of CRN as a “Bravus entity” along with links/references to any value documents and/or sections in the SDPWO Act that guide the staff of the OCG on the need for accuracy in their communications with the media and the public.

In reply I received a flat refusal to respond to any of my ongoing concerns including those regarding values around accuracy:

We appreciate your ongoing interest but have nothing further to add.

Please refer to our multiple responses since the start of the year.

I immediately followed up the flat refusal with a complaint to the Director of Ethics at People and Performance – Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning. I asked them to consider the ‘Accountability and Transparency’ section of the Code of Conduct for the Queensland public service which quotes Section 9(c) of the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 which reads:

are committed to managing information as openly as practicable within the legal framework; and

https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/accountability-and-transparency-code-conduct

I also reiterated my concerns about the responsibility of the OCG to communicate the actual functions it performs under the SDPWO Act. I highlighted that the Water Technology (WT) report produced under instruction by the OCG was of particular concern:

I would ask that you be mindful of the project names for projects for which the OCG is responsible for coordinating under the SDPWO Act. I would ask that you consider how the OCG may have framed their instructions to Water Technology for their investigation and the impact those instructions may have had on the naming and identification of relevant proponents under the SDPWO Act.

On May 27 I received correspondence from the Assistant Coordinator-General in response to some of my unanswered questions. They were able to confirm that I had my facts right about the relevant proponents and provided me with links to code of conduct documents. I was also provided with a perplexing explanation for the erroneous and misleading title of the WT report:

The report was prepared in response to a review of parts of both the North Galilee Basin Rail project and the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail project. The title of the report reflects the name of the joint proponents.

The reason this explanation perplexes me is that the title of the report contains the name of the mine proponent, not the rail proponent. The assistant CG does not even attend to that issue in their response. Bravus and CRN are joint proponents for the CCMR. CRN were enjoined as a proponent to deliver the rail component of the mine project which connects with the NGBR.

To make things absolutely clear in regard to the OCG’s published statements regarding Bravus and CRN as “joint proponents”; here is a quote from the CCMR *Project overview page that is published under the direction of the OCG:

Proponent

Adani Mining Pty Ltd and Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (joint proponents), both wholly owned subsidiaries of Adani Australia, part of the Adani Group.

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/coordinator-general/assessments-and-approvals/coordinated-projects/completed-projects/carmichael-coal-mine-and-rail-project

Bravus and CRN are not joint proponents of the ‘Carmichael Rail Network’. CRN are the sole proponent for the NGBR and joint proponent of the CCMR for the purposes of rail.

Here is a succinct description from a reliable source; a Supreme Court of Queensland document from proceedings brought against Ben Pennings, co-founder of Galilee Blockade:

Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (“Carmichael Rail”) is the proponent and developer of a railway, approximately 200 kilometres long, which would connect the mine with the existing rail network in Central Queensland.

https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QSC20-275.pdf

The Water Technology investigation

It needs to be understood that the WT investigation was primarily concerned with the allegations of environmental breaches along the NGBR corridor made by the Mackay Conservation Group who also urged that “other similar sites” be investigated:

WT have investigated the sites identified by the Mackay Conservation Group and other sites identified in the desktop review.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m_O9MmITyEXb7brkZoPd1b0-_ekZgw2U/view

*The Mackay Conservation Group put out a media release on May 19. You can follow the links to all the important documents from here: https://www.mackayconservationgroup.org.au/calls_to_strengthen_environmental_protection_adani

In the WT report the responsibility for adherence to environmental conditions imposed by the OCG was repeatedly attributed to “Bravus”. The introductory paragraph of the report titled ‘Erosion and Sediment Management Investigation: Carmichael Rail Network – Bravus Mining and Resources’ asserts that the OCG engaged WT to investigate alleged breaches by “Bravus”:

Water Technology (WT) were engaged by the Office of the Coordinator General (OCG) to investigate alleged breaches of legal obligations by Bravus at three locations on the Carmichael Rail Network Corridor to determine if a breach of conditions had occurred. This report details the nature of the alleged breaches and the results of our investigation.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m_O9MmITyEXb7brkZoPd1b0-_ekZgw2U/view

The MCG identified 3 locations within the NGBR corridor, therefore it is clear that the desktop review added the other locations. This would suggest that all or some of the locations identified in the desktop review were located on the CCMR – Separable Portion 1 (SP1) of the combined rail corridor, but the chainages listed that identify the additional locations for on site inspections are found along the NGBR corridor.

The site observations were completed on the 23rd and 24th March 2021 and included the three locations identified for investigation by MCG, and also two additional pre-selected locations by WT and one further location identified during the visit. Additional casual observations of the site works outside of the six specific locations were made during the course of the two-day site observations.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m_O9MmITyEXb7brkZoPd1b0-_ekZgw2U/view

It is likely that the scope of the investigation was widened to include locations along SP1 through the desktop review process. The green section in the map below, which was supplied by WT in their report, is the SP1 section of the CCMR. As you can see, no inspections by the WT team, OCG staff, Adani staff or contractors contractors were made outside of the blue and purple sections which represent the NGBR corridor.

*It’s important to note that the MCG incident report titled ‘Environmental Pollution Incident Report: Adani Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, February 2021’ does not identify the proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. It identifies the wrong project name in the report title and uses the old name for Adani’s mine proponent in the text. Indeed the document is so inaccurate that, while preparing for my previous blog post, I mistook it for a document relating to alleged breaches from 2019.

The opening line in the MCG incident report wrongly identifies the project name:

This report by Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) aims to inform a formal complaint about

erosion and sediment controls failing at the site of the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail

Project in Central Queensland during December 2020.

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dudgeonpointorg/pages/2311/attachments/original/1613606970/Environmental_Pollution_Incident_Report_-January_2021_-_Adani_%28Final%29.pdf?1613606970

This paragraph suggests that the author is not aware that the contiguous rail corridor, known since mid 2018 as ‘Carmichael Rail Network’, is a combination of the NGBR corridor and Separable Portion 1 of the Carmichael mine rail corridor after it was shortened by approximately 110 km some time in 2015-16:

These locations are in the Whitsunday Regional Council area, but sediment and erosion

control management failings may have occurred across the whole of the Adani Carmichael

Coal and Rail Project. Other similar sites should be investigated, including parts of the

project in the Isaac Regional Council area.

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/dudgeonpointorg/pages/2311/attachments/original/1613606970/Environmental_Pollution_Incident_Report_-January_2021_-_Adani_%28Final%29.pdf?1613606970

*

The WT report contains a summary of the Mackay Conservation Group incident report. As I mentioned, the MCG report wrongly identifies the relevant proponent, but instead of substituting the actual proponent for the NGBR (CRN) with the incorrectly alleged proponent (Adani Mining), the WT authors substituted the new name for the incorrectly reported proponent (Bravus). It’s hard to imagine how the OCG’s instructions and briefings lead to that substitution decision, but it had the effect of the WT report text not contradicting the media statements made by OCG spokespeople under the principle that “CRN is a Bravus entity”.

Here’s an exemplar of the inaccurate substitutions that WT authors may have been instructed/caused to make by the OCG:

Prosecute of Bravus for breaching their legal obligations in this case.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m_O9MmITyEXb7brkZoPd1b0-_ekZgw2U/view

It’s utterly clear to me that the intent of the MCG incident report and the accompanying letter from the EJA lawyer was that the Queensland government, through it’s relevant departments, conduct an investigation and make enforceable decisions under the relevant legislation to compel the relevant legal entities responsible for projects coordinated under the SDPWO Act to take the necessary measures to comply with existing or newly created environmental conditions. In light of that clear intent: would it not be in the interests of accountability and transparency that investigators are instructed to communicate the correct proponent even when the original incident report was in error?

The WT summary of the MCG incident report contained incorrect assertions of the responsibility of Bravus for alleged breaches. Contrast that against the summary of the EJA letter to Meaghan Scanlon. Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd is specified as the NGBR proponent the EJA letter, but this is not mentioned in the summary. The EJA summary also includes reference to the Riverine Protection Permit Exemption ‘approved entity’ number assigned to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd in 2017, but without mentioning their name.

The only reference to the actual proponent responsible for the allegations that prompted the investigation was made in the WT authors response section:

We note that the Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd were added as approved entity for the purposes of the exemption requirements for a Riverine Protection Permit (Version 1.03) on the 19th of September 2017.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m_O9MmITyEXb7brkZoPd1b0-_ekZgw2U/view

The WT report authors made one reference to the body responsible for Adani’s rail corridor under coordination by the OCG while making dozens of references to the mine proponent Bravus in a report about breaches on a project for which the mine proponent are not responsible under the law. Something seems to be very wrong!

Some analysis

It looks to me that the OCG have consistently made every effort/taken the necessary steps to keep the name of the Adani rail proponent out of the frame to the extent that they are capable of causing the name to be published. I’ve been provided 2 perplexing statements for why the rail proponent name didn’t appear where statements and investigations regarding alleged environmental breaches related to the projects for which CRN are responsible under the SDPWO Act.

A clue to the OCG’s consistency could lie in the phrase “CRN is a Bravus entity”. It may be that the CG has nominated Bravus as the entity responsible for particular imposed environmental conditions under Section 54 of the SDPWO Act. I would direct the reader to section 54A ‘Application of div 8’. If section 54A can be satisfied and section 54B (3) is applied, then section 54V ‘Jurisdiction for conditions’ may allow the Coordinator-General to “nominate an entity that is to have jurisdiction for the condition[s]”.

My investigations thus far have revealed that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd acquired significant Queensland government approvals and accreditations prior to the OCG changing the listed Adani proponent for the NGBR and rail component of the CCMR in June 2018. CRN made the AECOM contract, changed ultimate holding companies, and were mentioned in the North Galilee Water Scheme application documents as the Adani proponent for rail all while the NAIF controversy raged.

My working theory is that the Coordinator-General permitted Adani to install a new proponent without generating a public notice of any kind. I have checked my interpretation of the SDPWO Act with a staffer at the OCG and it is highly likely that with a single email to Adani Mining Pty Ltd the CG was able to facilitate ‘Change Request 1’ under sections 27AE and 35G of the SDPWO Act.

To put it in plain language: Under the act, if the CG decides that a request for a project change is unproblematic, they need not add anything to the public record. With a single email the CG was able to give Adani Mining Pty Ltd unlimited time operating with an unannounced proponent before causing information confirming a change of proponent to appear.

The working theory that I outlined in the last 2 paragraphs is based not only on research and right to information disclosures, but also on a conversation I had with senior project managers within the OCG. In September 2018 upon my discovering the change of listed proponent, I received a conference call from Karen Oakley and Heather Lopez; both project managers from the OCG. They asked me about my blog and mentioned that the CG had made a “statutory decision” giving Adani “unlimited time”.

Controversies and conclusions

With the recent federal court decision on the North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) there is likely to be a high level of scrutiny applied to the “water trigger”. Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd, as the mine rail proponent, are responsible for Separable Portion 1 which is also the NGWS ‘Stage B’ pipeline corridor. CRN are currently listed as a “prescribed entity” in the Queensland Water Amendment Regulation (No. 1) 2020 for the purposes of obtaining a water licence to add to their extensive accreditations and approvals. CRN are enmeshed into the scheme having been included in NGWS application documents and identified as the Adani rail proponent 18 months before their existence as the Adani rail proponent was ever acknowledged publicly.

The federal environment department is currently investigating a complaint regarding ‘Borrow Pit 7’ a quarry used to support the building of the rail corridor. No party involved in the making the complaint, conducting the investigation or reporting on it have been prepared to explicitly name the proponent responsible. As usual the media reports suggest Bravus is responsible with journalists like Ben Smee continuing to assert that Adani became ‘Bravus’ which is an inaccurate simplification of the re-branding of Adani Mining Pty Ltd after it had parcelled off it’s rail corridor to the former shell company, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.

As this giant coordinated project gets built and the environmental complaints roll in; agencies like the Office of the Coordinator-General will continue in their patterns of apparent prevarication; young journalists will obey their chiefs of staff and write what is expected and efficient; and NGO operatives will continue to labour under the capacity constraints and narratives that are assigned and reinforced by the philanthropically funded members of the StopAdani alliance. This is not the time to serve a narrative. It’s the time to speak the truth forcefully.

The Office of the Coordinator-General and Adani: Masking the rail proponent

I spent a good chunk of last week pestering the slow moving media officer at the Queensland Office of the Coordinator-General to explain why they were three months late updating the public on the final approval/milestone for the Adani Carmichael project, and why they recently gave NewsCorp a statement that I would describe as misleading in regard to the entity that is actually responsible for alleged breaches along the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) corridor. In the end they provided me with a statement that indicated they received a February update from Adani, and a statement that correctly identifies the Adani entity responsible for the alleged breaches, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN).

Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd – Rolling Stock Operator accreditation

To my mind the reason the approvals/milestones updates provided by the Office of the Coordinator-General are significant and require timely publication is because the Carmichael mine, rail corridor, port and other associated infrastructure represent an unprecedented conglomeration of projects overseen by a coordinator-general (CG) with unprecedented powers under the State Development and Public Works Act 1971.

In May 2019 the Queensland premier directed the Office of the Coordinator-General to monitor and expedite approvals. Part of their response was to provide updates to approvals in the form of a PDF hosted at the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) webpage.

It is my reasonable contention that the general public would expect that updates are timely and accurate, and include all the relevant details such as the Adani proponent responsible for any particular approval. I have been unable to get clarification from the CG’s office as to why Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd are not mentioned in any of the update PDFs.

Here’s how the ABC reported the premier’s directive to the coordinator-general in 2019:

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has asked the Coordinator-General to oversee the approvals process for the Adani coal project saying both she and the community were “fed up” with waiting for the department to approve the Indian mining company’s environmental management plans.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-22/adani-approvals-removal-environment-department/11138140

Approvals/milestones updates relate to both projects CCMR and NGBR but are only listed on the CCMR webpage and CRN are not mentioned in the updates.

The statement provided by the CG’s office in the October 2020 update document in association with rail approvals could have indicated which Adani entity was applying for rolling stock operator accreditation. The CG’s office would have been aware the mine proponent Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Bravus) had surrendered their rail accreditation in 2017 before rail safety accreditation was passed over by the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Transport (DTMR) to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) in 2017/18.

Here’s the statement made by the CG’s office in association with the final rail accreditations in their October 2020 update:

Adani will continue to work with the Commonwealth Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to obtain necessary approvals. This approval not on the critical path and the Coordinator-General will continue to monitor.


@page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } p { margin-bottom: 0.25cm; line-height: 115%; background: transparent } a:link { color: #000080; so-language: zxx; text-decoration: underline }
https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/22656/adani-outstanding-approvals-milestones-reached-01-10-2020.pdf

Here’s a statement made to me by a rail safety policy officer at DTMR in October 2018:

I can advise that the Adani rail transport operator accreditation was surrendered by Adani Mining Pty Ltd when the CRN entity was granted accreditation.

The CG’s office undertook to monitor developments around RSO approval. The RSO accreditation was granted on December 22, 2020, but the CG’s update was not published until March 26, 2021.

https://www.onrsr.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/4975/National-Rail-Safety-Register-Accreditation-1-February-2021.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0jmsQt3jiIw5LiNFgsfjYN9Nfq86-f6wWjgnXccj_5VEyE0mkdb8pBFbQ

The CG’s office clearly did not monitor for RSO accreditation. If they had been monitoring the process they would have developed a relationship with the ONRSR to receive timely notice of new Queensland based accreditations. Instead the CG’s office relied on Adani to update them, it seems, in their own time.

Here’s the statement provided to me by a spokesperson for the Office of the Coordinator-General on March 26, 2021:

In a February 2021 monthly report, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd provided advice to the Office of the Coordinator-General that “CRN has all ONRSR accreditations necessary to support the current construction activity”. The project webpage has been updated with this project information.

Adani updated the CG’s office some time in February 2021, but the CG’s office did not act on that information until pressured by me. If we assume the ONRSR published their accreditations register document on the date listed, February 1, 2021, then we can reasonably surmise that the monitoring responsibilities of the CG’s office did not extend to monitoring publications from the national rail safety regulator.

Here’s a link to the March 26, 2021 update document from the CG’s office:

Did the CG’s office deliberately avoid/delay providing an update on CRN RSO accreditation? That’s the question I would like to answer. We can say for certain that the CG’s office allowed Adani to set the timeline by waiting for them to report before taking action. It can also be deduced that the CG’s office had knowledge of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd receiving the final approval/milestone at least 4 weeks before they published an update. We can be confident that if the CG’s office were actually monitoring the approvals process diligently they would have known about the RSO accreditation at least 8 weeks before they published their update. And if the CG’s office had a relationship with the ONRSR then they could have acquired knowledge of the final approval/milestone 3 months before they provided their update. We can be confident that Adani have known since December 22, 2020 that they had successfully received RSO accreditation.

Environmental Breaches on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the Mackay Conservation Group/Environmental Justice Australia complaint

The way language is used in law and under the legislation that governs the work of the Office of the Coordinator-General determines the need for a high level of specificity. The same is not always required for the media or NGOs. The media and NGOs can get away with using general terminology or avoiding specific language altogether. When the coordinator-general’s office are less than specific with the language they provide to the media and NGOs they can feed into the misrepresentation of facts.

On February 5, 2021 the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) and Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) issued a media release alleging environmental breaches to conditions imposed by the coordinator-general (CG). These breaches are alleged to have taken place on the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR).

The original media release from MCG-EJA made no mention of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd (CRN) nor does it assert that Bravus is the responsible entity. The media release does mention that the NGBR is the project in question. It’s not hard to do a quick search and discover that the proponent for the NGBR is CRN. Journalists could have easily obtained the correct information by clicking through to the letter sent by the EJA lawyer on February 3, 2021 to the Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Meaghan Scanlon in which the proponent is clearly specified.

From the media release:

MCG believes that conditions imposed by the Queensland Coordinator General (QCG) on Adani’s North Galilee Basin Rail Project to protect nearby waterways from contamination may have been breached. The conditions require the development and implementation of erosion and sediment control measures.

https://www.mackayconservationgroup.org.au/another_adani_environmental_breach_causes_pollution_to_queensland_waterways_says_local_community_group

Interestingly Adani’s response to the MCG/EJA media release and supporting documentation makes no mention of Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd or the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. No effort is made to make it clear Bravus is not the responsible proponent.

Today, anti-coal activist organisations Environmental Justice Australia and Mackay Conservation Group released a statement containing false allegations regarding sediment controls on Bravus’ Carmichael mine and rail project sites.

And

Bravus Mining and Resources is constructing the Carmichael Mine and Rail Project, which comprises a 10 million tonne per annum thermal coal mine, located more than 300km inland from the Great Barrier Reef. It also includes a 200km narrow gauge rail line to connect the Carmichael Mine to the North Queensland Export Terminal via existing rail infrastructure.

The original letter sent by Ariane Wilkinson (EJA) on February 3, 2021 did specify that CRN are the NGBR proponent. The letter was linked in the February 5 media release.

We note that the failure to properly implement erosion and sediment controls on the NGBRP is part of a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Adani Group, including Adani Mining Pty Ltd, a related entity of the NGRP proponent, Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd.

When ABC North Queensland journalist Myles Houlbrook-Walk reported on the MCG/EJA complaint he erroneously suggested Bravus were responsible. Neither the media release nor the EJA lawyer’s letter contain the assertion that Bravus were the responsible proponent.

Environmentalists have alleged Bravus (formerly known as Adani) failed to properly manage erosion at its inland rail project, potentially contaminating waterways, according to a complaint made to Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-05/bravus-formerly-adani-accused-of-environmental-breaches-erosion/13120172

Melanie Whiting (NewsCorp) picked up the story on March 19, 2021. In her reporting Whiting, like Houlbrook-Walk erroneously asserted that Bravus was responsible.

The group alleged this was because Bravus had failed to properly prepare construction sites on the rail corridor for the wet season.

The Whiting story included a quote from the CG’s office saying Bravus provided them the information:

“Bravus has supplied information requested by the Coordinator-General, including details of the alleged event,” a spokesman for the Office of the Coordinator-General said.

On March 23, 2021 the CG’s office provided me with a statement that says that CRN are responsible:

Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd was requested to, and did, provide information in relation to the alleged breach of conditions.

Did the CG’s office lie? I would contend that the CG’s office should communicate the name of the specific proponent of the project that is the subject of the complaint in question when providing statements to the media. I certainly think the CG’s office should make every effort to provide factual information to the media and the general public. Just because someone from the Bravus office communicated with the CG’s office in the provision of information, does not mean that Bravus provided information under the requirements imposed by the CG. Under the State Development and Public Works Act 1971 that governs the actions of the CG’s office, the legal entity and NGBR proponent that is listed on the NGBR project page which is hosted and maintained by the CG’s office is Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. CRN are the entity from which the CG’s office sought and procured information and therefore the entity that the spokesperson for the CG’s office ought to have included in their statement to media reported on March 19, 2021.

Conclusions

Delaying the release of information and misrepresenting the source of information give advantage to Adani by masking the activities of the specific legal entity responsible for the extensive rail link that will cause damage along its entire length and open the Galilee Basin to decades of destruction. That legal entity was created for a reason that we don’t yet know and installed very quietly sometime before January 2017.

During my investigation into why alleged breaches by CRN were being reported as the responsibility of Bravus I discovered that the EJA lawyer had quit to go and work for WWF. The lawyer did not want to discuss the issue. When I spoke to a media person for EJA I discovered that nobody had been briefed to continue dealing with the media following the complaint. This went part of the way to explaining why neither EJA nor MCG had responded in any way to the Melanie Whiting story on their social media channels. My conversation with Peter McCallum from MCG on March 25, 2021 was much more cordial than my conversations with EJA staff, but I didn’t find an answer to the lack of attention paid to media reporting. It seems that between Adani, the media, the NGOs and the Queensland government there is no desire to report/communicate in a timely, accurate and diligent fashion. This advantages Adani’s interests against all others.

Locating the Kawasaki Hydrogen Liquefaction and Export Facility

You are here_Kawasaki
The Kawasaki site is on Long island Point, Hastings, Victoria

On my recent visit to Melbourne by bus and train I made a trip down to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula to see if I could find the building site for the hydrogen  liquefaction facility designed to support Victoria’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. A friend who lives locally came along with me on the Frankston train, we had planned to get a connecting bus onto Hastings, but my friend convinced me that we should get a car-share in Mordialloc and make the rest of the journey that way.

Reports in the media described the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility as being built at the “Port of Hastings”. Our objective was to find the specific location, a street address, a map reference or both. We were confident we were on the right track shortly after exiting the Western Port Highway when we found pipeline markers running parallel to Frankston-Flinders Rd on our left as we headed south. We were even more confident when we saw the first of the Esso petroleum storage tanks to our left. We took a left turn where a rail spur crossed the road and another left onto Bayview Road. Where Bayview Road meets Long Island Drive we found the Kawasaki pilot site.

GC_front gate_photo_2020-03-18_13-28-58
The corner of Bayview Road and Long Island Drive

The pilot site location is more accurately described as being on Long Island Point, Hastings. The area was clearly established as an industrial export site long ago. Two Esso storage/export facilities are situated near two Bluescope Steel facilities. Both are serviced by rail spurs and, it should be assumed, pipeline infrastructure. We found some key information on public displays at the Hastings pier where the fishers moor their boats.

photo_2020-03-12_18-46-58

While we were in Hastings we picked up a copy of the Western Port News which was running a story by Keith Platt on the new Kawasaki facility and the resistance coming on the back of the ‘climate emergency’ declared by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in August 2019. The Western Port Shire Council (WPSC) have commissioned a report on the Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hydrogen Engineering Australia project and a proposed container port. The report will likely be released sometime in April this year.

photo_2020-03-12_18-47-09
Western Port News, March 3

The HESC project has a 500 million price tag and includes the development of potential geological storage of CO2 sequestered from the Loy Yang brown coal to hydrogen facility in the Latrobe Valley near Traralgon. The WPSC may find itself up against the might of the Victorian and Australian governments in contesting the Kawasaki facility going beyond the pilot phase.

GC_satelite view_cropped_photo_2020-03-18_13-30-32
An aerial view of the Kawasaki site

The CarbonNet CO2 storage project has been provided 150 million by the Victorian and federal governments so far. The HESC proponents downplay the sequestration component that would transform the hydrogen exported by Kawasaki Heavy Industries projects into “clean” or “blue” hydrogen. It is likely that the Loy Yang pilot will not immediately sequester the CO2 produced in the process of producing hydrogen from brown coal which is precisely what happened at the Gorgon Gas Project on Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast.

gippsland-basin.png
Activist Peter Gardner is an activist, writer and Gippsland local who provided a warning with this map in 2017.

http://petergardner.info/2017/01/ccs-rumblings-in-gippsland/

Ninety Mile Against Carbon Storage (NMACS) is a grass roots group based in Gippsland that has been campaigning against the CarbonNet project. In their project briefing they start by providing some important context about the 2 billion in federal funding for carbon capture and storage going back to 2009.

When the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program was established in 2009 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was a means of securing a low-emissions future for coal by supporting the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated CCS projects in Australia.

https://www.ninetymileagainstcarbonstorage.org.au/carbonnet-project/

NMACS point out that the CarbonNet project is one of the survivors of the CCS Flagships program and is heavily supported by the state and federal governments.

CarbonNet-focas-areas
A map of CarbonNet focus areas from the NMACS website

Supporting grass roots groups is of vital importance right now. The political will evidenced by the involvement of the Australian, Victorian and Japanese government in support of corporate interests in both Australia and Japan shows that grass roots groups are heavily out gunned. They are fighting plans that have been developed since at least 2009 when former federal energy minister Martin Ferguson attended the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum hosted under the banner of the International Energy Agency’s, Clean Energy Ministerial process.

GC_map reference_cropped_photo_2020-03-18_13-29-51
Map reference for the Kawasaki Heavy Industries site

The Western Port Peninsula Protection Council and the Preserve Western Port Action Group have expressed concerns about possible dredging and climate impacts from fossil hydrogen production preceding any CO2 sequestration.

Notes from the Fossil Frontlines Tour Westernport Bay

https://www.wppcinc.org/port-of-hastings-kawasaki.html

Unwelcome – Brown Coal based Hydrogen project – Hastings

http://www.preservewesternport.org.au/news/2018/5/18/unwelcome-brown-coal-based-hydrogen-project-crib-point

There is still much to be unpacked about how the HESC project came to be. Very little information is available from the bigger environmental organisations and their networks into think tanks and the media. This is consistent with the general absence of intelligence and analysis coming from the big environmental organisations in regard to CCS projects. The HESC website provides some key information including an FAQs page.

Hastings Planning Scheme Amendment confirmed

https://hydrogenenergysupplychain.com/hastings-planning-scheme-amendment-confirmed/

screenshot.1354
A screen shot from the HESC FAQs page

https://hydrogenenergysupplychain.com/faqs/

Lastly, a piece called ‘Does writing books still matter in an era of environmental catastrophe?’ by Briohny Doyle gives a little context to the situation in Gippsland. It is perhaps the most widely read piece of writing to actually attend to the issue of CCS plans for the HESC project.

Heath_landscape_photo_2020-03-12_18-47-39
A field nearby the kawasaki site

The rig off Paradise Beach is an experimental driller for “Carbon Net”, a carbon capture and storage project capable of processing a promotional video extols, “the equivalent of CO2 emissions from around one million cars every year that it operates”. The comparison is misleading however, as Carbon Net will not capture emissions from the air but from high polluting industrial sites in the Latrobe Valley, piping them seaward to inject into layers of sandstone deep in Bass Strait.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/feb/07/does-writing-books-still-matter-in-an-era-of-environmental-catastrophe

ADANI MADE YOU A MAP: All frontline activists should keep one in their pocket

The Map

Adani made this map and gave it to the Queensland government in 2016. The Queensland government sat on it till it was revealed in a Right to Information disclosure in 2018. Whatever person or entity made the RTI application and first received the disclosure documents made no effort to share it with the public.

Traditional Owner Areas_map_Adani_March 2016_2
A map of the Traditional Owner groups along Adani’s preferred rail corridor, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project – released after February 20, 2018.

I’ve shared this map with all the appropriate journalists, politicians, NGO mouthpieces and activists. I’ve made every effort to present it to those who ought to have an opinion on what it shows us about stopping the means of export for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine. I wrote about this map shortly after I found it in May 2018.

The above map ‘Attachment 2 – Map of Traditional Owner areas’ was supplied by Adani to the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) in March 2016. It was included in a RTI disclosure that was made at some point after the last document modification date of February 20, 2018. RTI 15-315 contains only content and communications generated between February 3 and April 3, 2016. The recipient of the RTI disclosure cannot be provided by DNRM staff and neither can the dates the disclosure was made available to the recipient and/or the public.

If we focused more on the political economy of the Galilee Basin coal complex we might see less aversive racism toward Traditional Owners

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/if-we-focused-more-on-the-political-economy-of-the-galilee-basin-coal-complex-we-might-see-less-aversive-racism-toward-traditional-owners/comment-page-1/

 

This Week

The featured image for this blogpost uses the map to show the approximate location of the most recent Frontline Action on Coal direct actions in the Galilee Basin in the last week. I’ve been in contact with a journalist embedded with FLAC who captured the 2 direct actions on video and has provided me with a few location details.

Traditional Owner Areas_map_FLAC_August2019
The direct actions took place at the intersection of Separable Portion 1 and the Gregory Development Rd (Gregory Highway).

The direct actions on August 16 and 21 involved locking on to a drill rig on a section of Adani’s rail corridor beside the Gregory Development Road. The intersection of the rail corridor section known as Separable Portion 1 and the Gregory Development Rd is on Jangga People country.

As is always the case, the StopAdani alliance NGOs did not share content or news of FLACs direct actions. This has been happening for nearly 2 years. I wrote about it here and here.

The majority of Adani’s green field rail corridor is to be built on Jangga People country. The FLAC direct actions on August 16 and 21 represent the first of many. The StopAdani alliance member NGOs and their friends in the Climate Action Network Australia need to decide if they are more committed to the narrative they have constructed or laying the future of their institutions on the line in order to properly support frontline activists. All they have to lose is their charitable status and access to those dubious ‘impact philanthropy’ funding streams.

 

 

Understanding GERAIS (Guidelines for Ethical Research in Aboriginal and Islander Studies) Part 1: My abstract

This is the abstract I submitted for consideration by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conferences (ANIRC) Program Committee, for inclusion as a presentation at the 2019 AIATSIS National Research Conference: Research for the 21st Century.

My proposed presentation was declined, but I’m sharing the abstract here because I believe my questions continue to be relevant.

Title Green-Black Relations and the Galilee Basin Coal Complex: Political economy, aversive racism and public discourse
Paper Status Declined
Presenting Author Mr Michael Swifte

Abstract:

To have a belief in protecting nature while supporting the right of Traditional Owners/Sovereign First Nations to exercise autonomy is to hold two ideas in enormous tension. It is not for me as a non-Indigenous person to tell Indigenous people how to care for nature or who they ought to negotiate with in regards to rights and interests in country.

The public discourse is influenced by particular environmental and activist groups, but do these groups represent the truth of the political economy that Indigenous peoples are confronted with on a daily basis? How do these representations shape the public consciousness and influence decision making around resource extraction projects like the Galilee Basin coal complex?

My close examination of the public discourse, many phone calls to case managers at the NNTT and ORIC, and my reading of the work of Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh and Lily O’Neill has left me with two key questions: (1) What can be learned from academic inquiry that observes the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Aboriginal and Islander Studies? (2) How can independent researchers support the kind of critical inquiry that can contribute to a more informed public discourse regarding the native title system, environmental protection and resource extraction?

Briefing: Adani’s Plan B rail corridor

NGBR – EPBC compliant. January 2019

Early works activities undertaken included the establishment of temporary fencing,

clearing and grubbing, filling and excavation and surveys including environmental and

cultural heritage.

Compliance Report: North Galilee Basin Rail Project, EPBC 2013/6885, 13 October 2017
to 12 October 2018

https://www.adaniaustralia.com/-/media/NGBR-Project-compliance-report-1—EPBCapproval-2013-6885.pdf?la=en&hash=DEAA4E559A8C1F60EB7725334F81F7D6

New rail proponent for CCMR and NGBR

My RTI disclosure documents suggest that Qld DSD staff were aware of the change of
proponent at least a day before the CG received the letter from Adani Mining Pty Ltd
confirming the change of proponent for NGBR from Adani Mining Pty Ltd to Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd. DSD staff were notified of a meeting titled ‘Adani projects — Implications of proponent name change’ on March 26, 2018 while Adani Mining’s letter to the CG arrived March 27, 2018.

No communications about the change of proponent were made either in Hansard or
ministerial statements. The letter confirming the addition of CRN as joint proponent of the Carmichael mine project was received by the CG on April 23, 2018. The NGBR and CCMR project DSD web pages were updated on June 11, 2018.
http://services.dip.qld.gov.au/opendata/RTI/released-documents-rtip1819-036.pdf

Unresolved legal issues between CRN and AECOM

Adani rejected the ruling of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.

‘Adjudication 399211: AECOM Australia Pty Ltd v Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd, 13

December 2018’

http://xweb.bcipa.qld.gov.au/ars_xweb/Pages/PDFViewer.aspx?APP_NO=00000000399211&SEQ_NO=2
‘Adani refuses to pay for work on Carmichael mine’. Mark Ludlow

https://www.afr.com/news/politics/national/adani-challenging-payments-to-aecom-for-workon-carmichael-mine-20190514-p51n3w

CRN ultimate holding company

Adani changed ultimate holding companies one month after the first hearing in the Senate inquiry into the NAIF.
ASIC documents show that Carmichael Rail Network Pty Ltd changed ultimate holding
companies on September 8, 2017. (retrieved on November 14, 2018).

484 08/09/2017 08/09/2017 3 08/09/2017 7E9427173

484 Change to Company Details

484D Change to Ultimate Holding Company

484N Changes to (Members) Share Holdings

Context and confusion about rail approvals

I reported in my blogpost ‘Plan B, Separable Portion 1 and the new Adani proponent’ that
the rail line for the Carmichael mine is a fusion of 2 separate sections belonging to 2
separate projects. I pointed out that Separable Portion 1 is the remnants of the east-west
narrow gauge line that constituted the rail component of the Carmichael Coal Mine and
Rail Project.

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/plan-b-separable-portion-1-and-the-new-adani-proponent/
In April Josh Bavas wrote a piece that suggested that Adani could start digging the mine
without any other rail approvals.

The remaining plans will be required as the project moves through its various stages, just like any other project, but are not needed in order for us to start construction.

‘Adani yet to submit rail plans to Queensland Government’

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-12/adani-carmichael-mine-rail-plans-not-submittedpremier-says/10995030
On May 31 Margaret Gleeson writing in Green Left Weekly quoted a document hosted on
the Qld DSD website, Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project page titled ‘Details of
outstanding approvals’. This document was posted to the DSD web page on May 24,
2019.

‘Details of outstanding approvals’.

https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/resources/guideline/cg/details-of-outstanding-approvals.pdf
‘Is the Galilee Basin coal ‘bonanza’ a damp squib?’ Margaret Gleeson
https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/galilee-basin-coal-bonanza-damp-squib

Ian Macfarlane puts the NGBR project in perspective

What’s going to happen with the groundwater application and its potential approval is that any further applicants will have not only the infrastructure to get the coal out because the railway line will be there,

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-12/adani-approval-could-be-galilee-basin-ice-breaker/11194510?fbclid=IwAR3ic3G7DMM89F8qFfRaO-8zlYwKKAC7i-TQoi8gjEsi7o5cZ_omSGXKmV4

Digging into Adani’s Dealings: A learning journey into right to information applications with the Queensland government

Event:

December 10, 2018 at Turnstyle Community Hub from 4pm till 6pm

This event is in Brisbane. Check this link for details of the venue.

Description:

Anyone can make a right to information application with the Queensland government, and some people can get information released with minimal cost if they are experiencing financial hardship. If Adani don’t try to hold up my application I will receive a disclosure document on December 10.

Come along next Monday afternoon for an informal discussion about how ordinary people, putting their heads together, can work to liberate information about the Queensland state government’s dealings with Adani.

If a disclosure is provided to me on December 10, I will make it available to anyone who attends. The disclosure will be made publicly available by the Department of State Development who coordinate the Adani projects a week later. The first week is a crucial time for analysing an RTI disclosure and creating opportunities in the media to share new and possible explosive information.

Here is the disclosure listing: RTI1819-036-DSDMIP https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/right-to-information/disclosure-log-released-information.html

Background information: ‘Plan B, Separable Portion 1 and the new Adani proponent’ https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/plan-b-separable-portion-1-and-the-new-adani-proponent/

In detail:

I was able to get some support from the Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland in preparing my RTI application. EDO Qld were able to identify the relevant legislation and framed the crucial language that forms the most important element of an RTI application. Key words and terms determine the searches of departmental documents and communications conducted in response to an RTI application.

On December 10, 2018 the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning will either provide me with up to 215 pages of correspondence relating to the change of proponent for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and the addition of a new proponent for the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, or they will inform me of an extension of time for consultation with a third party (Adani). The information I am seeking is significant because the new proponent is the subject of multiple approvals that could be described as being ‘stealthed’ through by multiple Queensland government departments. The new proponent is one of the Adani shell companies mentioned in the media in the lead up to last year’s NAIF inquiry and is reported to hold the royalty deed for the Carmichael mine.

The Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner determine how right to information processes are delivered across the Queensland government departments. It also reviews decisions made by government departments. In March it issued it’s judgement on the Queensland Department of Treasury decision not to release information to Greenpeace Australia Pacific. The below statement confirms the importance of access to information about Adani’s dealings.

“The Carmichael rail project is a matter of considerable community interest and debate. Disclosure of information relating to the project, such as that in issue, could reasonably be expected to promote open discussion of the ‘pros and cons’ of the project, contribute to informed debate on the project’s merits and ensure any decisions to advance public monies are made transparently and accountably.” L Lynch, Acting Right to Information Commissioner, 1 March 2018

The Office of the Information Commissioner provides guidelines for right to information officers across the Queensland government. These guidelines are very informative and can help members of the public understand how RTI officers do their job.

https://www.oic.qld.gov.au/guidelines/for-government/access-and-amendment/processing-applications/consulting-with-a-relevant-third-party