Environment Minister Sussan Ley has approved three new coal mines, but is skeptical about a giant renewable project. 

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has approved the Wollongong Coal expansion, Whitehaven’s Vickery Mine and Glencore’s Mangoola coal mine.

Two of these approvals give the companies involved permission to offset for the destruction of habitat for the threatened regent honeyeater and swift parrot, and an endangered species of orchid.

However, in June, Ms Ley rejected the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) on the grounds that it would be a threat to migratory birds and the flatback turtle.

The AREH project would have seen 26 gigawatts of wind turbines and solar PV panels installed over 666,000 hectares of the East Pilbara region in Western Australia.

The plan was to use renewable energy to extract hydrogen from water and combine it with nitrogen to produce carbon-free ammonia, which can be shipped to Asia for use in hydrogen power.

Ms Ley said the risk to wildlife made the renewable projects “clearly unacceptable” She did not make the same determination on the risks of fossil fuel projects to wildlife. 

In fact, since 2000, just 11 out of 6,600 projects have been deemed “clearly unacceptable” by federal environment ministers.

The Coalition government that took power in 2013 has given three “clearly unacceptable” determinations, two of which were for renewable energy projects and the third for a renewable energy hub. 

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