Australia’s dirtiest power company, AGL, has a lot to answer for at its AGM

AGL protest

28 September 2016

AGL has been branded ‘Australia’s biggest polluter’ with 85% of all AGL power coming from coal. Unsurprisingly company board members were met at their annual general meeting (AGM) with protesters who demanded AGL stop contributing to the warming of the planet by bringing forward the closure of their coal-fired power stations to 2025.

Inside the AGM, AGL faced a flurry of questions on climate change and the impacts of pollution from their coal power stations and coal seam gas field. Of the eighteen questions that were asked, around two thirds were related to these two issues.

While AGL made an effort to paint itself as a progressive and environmentally friendly company, there were a few telling moments which show they still have a long way to go.

Firstly, the questions regarding the need for them to close their three coal-fired power stations were deflected as the government’s responsibility to plan for a transition away from coal. While there is certainly a need for our state and federal governments to have a plan for reaching 100% renewable energy, AGL cannot escape responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions, as the owner of the power stations in question. They have control over what happens to those power stations, and they could be proactively working with the government on plans for their closure.

Secondly, check out their new Board member! Peter Botten, the Managing Director of Oil Search since 1994 has just joined the AGL Board. If AGL is really committed to the transition to a low-carbon economy, why appoint an oil and gas man to your board?

AGL and coal seam gas

AGL has faced a long-running campaign from local residents to shut down their CSG field in Camden after people living near wells started reporting headaches and noise bleeds. In 2015 the company was fined due to a gas leak that occurred just 2km from peoples homes.

Dan Robins from Lock the Gate came on behalf of the Camden community. He asked a question on behalf of Danielle, a woman who lives with 20 of AGL’s operating coal seam gas wells within 2 km of her home in Spring Farm. While the entire gas field is due to close in 2023, locals want to know the timetable for the shut down of individual wells.

Andy Vesey (CEO) denied any of AGL’s wells are leaking.

AGL and toxic emissions at Bayswater

A recent article in The Guardian explained that there’s been an increase in sulphur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, fine particle and mercury pollution after AGL acquired the Bayswater coal-fired power station. Beverly Smiles from Wollar in the Hunter Valley came ask whether AGL would commit to installing the most up to date technology to control pollution emissions.

AGL refused to commit to installing the best technology to control toxic pollution coming from Bayswater, only committing to remain in line with air quality standards which some say are inadequate. The Chairman’s comments regarding measuring new pollutants and Bayswater producing more electricity ignore the fact that the intensity of toxic emissions per unit of electricity produced has risen since AGL took over.

Take Action!

As Australia’s biggest climate polluter AGL cannot dodge their responsibility to help avoid catastrophic climate change. You can join the campaign by contacting their board here.

And additionally, since most of us own a little piece of AGL ourselves through our super funds, you can contact your fund and ask them to ask AGL to be fossil fuel free by 2025.