Tuesday, December 29, 2009

www.fof.org.au is now online

We now have a proper website.

Please go there for the latest news on our campaign. This blog will serve as an archive of our activities from February 2008 until December 2009.

You can contact us at friendsoffelton@live.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

National Farmers Federation visit to Felton

NFF President David Crombie and CEO Ben Fargher visited Felton yesterday, accompanied by Agforce Vice-President Ian Burnett, on a fact-finding mission. A large crowd of 80 people gathered at Felton Hall for morning tea & discussion, followed by a visit to the site of Ambre Energy's proposed development, and a visit to the area over which Newmont Pacific Energy holds a Mineral Development Licence.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ambre Energy in financial trouble?

Ambre Energy's Annual Report 2009 carries a warning from auditors Grant Thornton.

Here's an excerpt -

'In addition...the group has forecast that it may deplete its current cash reserves by June 2010. Sunsequent to year end, the company released an Information Memorandum to raise approximately $10million. At the date of this report, the company has raised approximately $2.6million..... and the directors believe that the balance up to $10million shall be received.

If this funding or alternative sources of capital are not able to be obtained, there exists significant uncertainty whether Ambre energy Limited and its controlled entities would be able to continue as a going concern....'

Ambre has it's eyes on Back Plains too....

Ambre Energy has plans for further drilling at Back Plains , midway between Felton, Nobby , and Clifton. The company claims to have found a 'highly promising prospect'.
Toowoomba Chronicle report here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

People Power triumphs at Traveston

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garret today rejected the Traveston Dam proposal.

"It is clear to me that the Traveston Dam cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental importance" he said.

Now for Felton!

Clean Coal? 'Probably never' - MacFarlane

Senior Coalition frontbencher and chief ETS negotiator Ian MacFarlane put it bluntly when asked about Clean Coal on ABC Four Corners on Monday night.

"The reality is you are not going to see another coal-fired power station built in Australia. That, that's a simple fact. You can talk all the stuff you like about carbon capture storage, that concept will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never" he said.

View the entire program here.

Ambre Energy's so-called Felton 'Clean Coal' Project looks to be in big trouble.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Clean coal "not viable for 20 years"

The Australian Government's own Carbon Capture & Storage Institute says that 'clean coal' power generation will not be viable commercially until 2030.

"A viable business case for commercial scale, integrated projects has not been established at this time for coal-fired power generation and other large CO2-emitting industries" says a report released by the institute last week.

Media reports here - The Australian, ABC Radio AM

So where does this leave Ambre Energy's so-called Felton 'Clean Coal' Project? Back to the drawing board for a name change perhaps. How about the 'Felton Environmental Destruction Project'?

Watch the latest spoof coal ad from Getup!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Friends of Felton Raceday success

Our raceday in Toowoomba on Saturday was a resounding success. More than 300 people packed the Grand Marquee at Clifford Park, and were entertained by a string quartet. Guest auctioneers Rob Caton and Matt Cleary did a great job, and a large amount of money was raised to help our campaign against mining development at Felton.

Special thanks to our race sponsors - Oakey Veterinary Hospital, Glenmar Fuels, Hannas, Elders Real Estate Toowoomba, Pittsworth Veterinary Surgery, Stillwater Pastoral Co, and Ray White Rural Pittsworth

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Farmers: Give a Tonne or Two to Felton!

From left: John Gilmour (FOF graindrive coordinator), Pat Sullivan (Graincorp Operations Manager), Rob McCreath (FOF President)

Friends of Felton this week launched a fundraising grain drive called “Give a Tonne or Two to Felton”.

We are currently raising funds to employ consultants to prepare a response to the EIS for the proposed Felton coal mining development, which Ambre Energy says will be released for public comment early 2010.
The Felton project is a test case, being the furthest advanced mining project on prime farmland.

It would be hard to imagine a proposal with more impact on farmland, the environment, and the community. We are confident that we can stop this project, and draw a line in the black soil which will set a precedent to protect other threatened areas, such as Caroona, Haystack and Jimbour.

‘Give a Tonne or Two to Felton’ is an easy way for graingrowers to contribute to the cause.

At any grain receival point, just ask for a tonne or two of grain to be warehoused under Friends of Felton’s NGR 12920138. Grain already warehoused anywhere in Queensland can also be transferred to FOF in the same way. Every little bit helps.
Ex-farm grain collection can also be arranged by FOF, please contact us to discuss.
Graincorp Operations Manager Pat Sullivan said his company was happy to support the FOF campaign. “This country has very little prime farmland, we should preserve it for food production”, he said.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Encroachment by mining has to be moderated

How come coal miners can establish in the middle of highly productive and closely settled farming communities on the Darling Downs? Coal mining at places such as the Felton Valley is contrary to the wishes of the resident community and against the best long term interests of the nation and the planet.

Friends of Felton have determined that there are more than 220 households located within 12 km of a proposed mine site. Potentially, all the occupants of these households would suffer mine-related externalities of some sort, without getting any compensation or offsetting benefits.

Clearly the market forces that currently allow miners to enter and establish in contravention of the greater good, are failing. Evidence of market failure is normally met by government intervention with the end result being regulations to correct the market failure. So why hasn’t there been any government intervention to protect the highly productive and closely settled communities of the Darling Downs and elsewhere? The blame on this occasion rests squarely with state governments as they control mining approval processes and issue the operating licenses. The fact that state governments also collect royalties from mining goes a long way towards explaining the root cause of their inaction.

So what should happen? Good governance demands urgent reform through some combination of the following.

1. Broad-scale land use planning that takes into account all relevant issues including history, demographics, existing development status, water, agricultural productivity and community aspirations. This reform would bring about balance between agriculture and mining and in the process give absolute protection to particular farming communities.

2. Vest the licensing of all new mines with a single national body, operating independently of any government department. Apart from severing the link between licensing and royalties, this reform would reduce duplication and make it possible for Australia to deliver a meaningful ETS.

3. Require the impact assessment process to include quantification of key performance indicators applying to affected precincts (such as household density, productive capacity of the ecosystem and qualities of the natural environment). Beyond some aggregate score, the site’s ‘performance’ would cause the mining proposal to be rejected outright and progression to mitigation strategies would not be attempted.

Making the EIS process more objective and subject to the possibility of outright failure would go a long way towards increasing public confidence in the assessment process.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Council with Courage

Congratulations to our neighbouring Local Council for taking a stand to protect the environment, local residents, and vegetable growers.

Powerstation proposal rejected
Kate Stark 14th October 2009

Gatton Star
Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones with local residents. Picture: Toowoomba Chronicle

THE Lockyer Valley Regional Council has refused the proposal by Parson Brinckerhoff Australia Pty Ltd to build a gas fired peaking power station on Mulgowie Road, Laidley South.During the ordinary meeting of council, held yesterday, LVRC unanimously agreed that the proposal could not be justified and would not bring a positive change to the area.Rejecting the proposal on the basis that the station did not comply with the Desired Environmental Outcomes for the area, particularly highlighting the effect it may have on the air quality.Also outlined by council was the economic impact it would have on vegetable producers on adjacent properties and the general aesthetic value of the scenic areas.Lockyer Mayor Steve Jones said the acceptance of the officer's recommendation to refuse the power station was a victory for people power."I would always encourage people, if they're passionate about something, to do their homework," Mayor Jones said."If you've got a real conviction, don't be afraid to stand up."I understand that there is an ongoing need for power but we need to determine what's in it for us."Deputy Mayor Graham Moon said while he wasn't against the idea of a power station, the proposed sight at Mulgowie was unacceptable."We have one of the prettiest valleys in the Lockyer," Cr Moon said, adding he would hate to see it negatively affected by the construction.

Toowoomba Chronicle report here

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No mining without planning

Friends of Felton met yesterday with Toowoomba Regional Council and requested:

Public support for a halt to all new mining development within the Toowoomba Region, until comprehensive land use planning has been undertaken which considers protection for prime farmland, areas of high environmental importance and closely settled areas.

Ambre Energy has applied for a Mining Lease at Felton. A number of other companies have identified coal deposits in areas such as Wyreema, Hodgson Vale, Wellcamp, and Pittsworth.

Spokesman Rob McCreath said “The Toowoomba Region as we know it is under threat from mining. Toowoomba Regional Council must speak up to safeguard our farmland, the environment, and local communities. How can Toowoomba be the Garden City if mines take all the water? How can Toowoomba be Australia’s Tidy Town if everything’s covered in coal dust?”

Toowoomba Regional Council is in the process of developing a new Planning Scheme with the following objective:

“Council’s principal goal is to protect and enhance the amenity of all land uses while retaining the special character of local communities.” (TRC Quarterly Winter 09)

We feel our request fits very well with Council policy. We look forward to their response.

Toowoomba Chronicle report 19th October: 'Council Urged to Speak Up'

Senate Inquiry submissions keep rolling in

The Senate Inquiry into the impacts of mining in the Murray Darling Basin has now received over 70 submissions, including one from Friends of Felton.

Read them all here

Transcripts are available for the hearings in Oakey and Gunnedah here

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Senate hearing in Oakey 29th Sept 09

From left: Senator Scott Ludlam, Senator Anne McEwen, Committee Secretary Ian Holland, Senator Simon Birmingham, Senator John Williams.

Friends of Felton reps Rob McCreath, Vicki Green, and Ian Whan appear before the committee.

Friends of Felton members were out in force to welcome the committee to Oakey.
FOF supporters packed the public gallery.
Part of the FOF display of local produce outside the meeting venue.

Felton's younger generation with a wheelbarrow of locally grown food.

Media reports on the Senate hearing are available here (ABC), here (The Age) , here (Toowoomba Chronicle) , here (Crikey.com)
ABC TV Stateline report and transcipt are available here

Senate Committee visits Felton

The Senate Inquiry into the impacts of mining in the Murray Darling Basin came to Felton yesterday. Four senators came from the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts: Sen Simon Birmingham - LP, SA, chair; Sen Anne McEwen -ALP, SA, deputy chair; Sen Scott Ludlam - Aust Greens; Sen John Williams - NATS, NSW.

The large crowd of FOF members appreciated the opportunity to inform the committee of the proposed layout for Ambre Energy's so-called Felton 'Clean Coal' Project. They pointed out the quality of the surrounding farmland, the proximity to Hodgson Creek, the importance of the nearby hills as recharge areas for underground aquifers, and the number of people that live in the area.

After visiting the Felton Valley, the committee toured the Acland area, viewing the devastation caused by the New Acland open-cut coal mine, and visiting the ghost town of Acland - itself under threat from the expanding mine.

Watch a video of the senators visit here from Qld Country Life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friends of Felton supports Toowoomba's 60th Carnival of Flowers

Friends of Felton once again entered a float in Toowoomba's Carnival of Flowers parade. This years event was the 60th, and drew a huge crowd of 100,000 spectators. Our float showcased the variety of food produced in the Felton Valley, and also carried a windmill and solar panel, to represent our interest in renewable energy as an alternative to coal development.

Our float was preceded by a group of Felton youngsters from 3 families that have been in the area for up to 6 generations.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cakes against Coal

Friends of Felton organised a very successful cake stall in Pittsworth on Friday. We are raising funds to employ professional consultants to prepare our case against Ambre Energy’s Mining Lease application at Felton.

Organiser Andrea Sullivan said the local community had been very supportive. “It was a great opportunity for us to earn some money, and at the same time inform the people of Pittsworth of the serious consequences for the town and surrounding area if mining is allowed to go ahead at Felton. It would open the floodgates to more mining all around Pittsworth. We’ve seen what’s happened to Acland and we don’t want that to be repeated here” she said.

The cake stall raised $700. The raffle was won by the Free family. Friends of Felton have many more activities planned, including a float in the Toowoomba Carnival Of Flowers parade, a night at Toowoomba Rep Theatre on 26th Sept, and a Race Day at Clifford Park, Toowoomba, on 24th October. Enquiries and tickets - friendsoffelton@live.com

Sunday, August 30, 2009

We must learn from the Hunter Valley experience

Renewable Energy as an alternative to Coal Development

We know we cannot co-exist with coal mines, petrochemical plants and power stations. On the other hand we CAN co-exist with renewable energy, which would preserve our precious farmland, protect our environment, and safeguard our community.

To that end, FOF invited Trevor Berrill to come to Felton to look at the renewable energy potential. Trevor is one of Queensland's most respected Sustainable Energy Systems consultants.

After touring the Felton area on Saturday morning, Trevor gave a fascinating talk to around 60 people at Cambooya Bowls Club in the evening. Some of the key points are detailed below.

Trevor Berrill. Presentation - Cambooya 29 Aug 09
Only Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency provide immediate CO2 Reductions

We have RE & EE technologies now. We know how to use RE & EE, and it doesn’t cost the earth. Failing to use it may.

Current energy pathway is unsustainable –business as usual is no longer an option.

Costs of greenhouse response NOW will be small: about 1% of annual global GDP by 2050 (ref Stern).

Current World Energy Supply
Non renewable: 91%
Renewable: 9%

Global Renewable Energy Resource
15,000 x Current Energy Use

Solar Power
Qld Resource: MASSIVE
Require < 23 x 23 km to meet all current Qld electricity demand.

Qld Resource - 10TWh/yr at <10c/kWh = 20% current demand (CSIRO 2007).

“Clean” Coal
• Oxymoron - inherently ‘dirty fuel’
• Pollution – costly
• Limited resource life
• Inefficient conversion
• Nimbyism
• 1000 yrs Waste Disposal and Storage problems– beyond civilisations
• Future hidden & external costs

There is NO clean coal technology available NOW

Energy Efficiency
Transport: Of the fuel used by a car, 80% heats the engine, 19% moves the weight of the car, 1% moves the weight of the driver.

Lighting: An incandescent lightbulb powered by electricity from a coal-fired power station uses only 2% of the energy in the coal. 98% is lost.

Direct Local Jobs per Unit of Electricity Generated
Coal electricity + coal mining - 1job.
Wind power with 50% Australian content 2–3 jobs(ref Diesendorf).

Strong Sustainable Energy Policy for Qld
• Set a 40% renewable energy target by 2020.

• Set a target of a 10 percent annual reduction in energy consumption to 2020.

• Undertake energy, material waste and water audits of all homes and businesses.

• Remove market barriers to the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

• Apply Polluter Pays Principle - Stop subsidising the fossil fuel industry.

• Ensure that all new developments apply best practice environmental design.

• Provide rebates for retrofitting existing homes with Sustainable Energy and efficient water technologies.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Erin Brockovich to Felton: Don't give up!

Anthea Gleeson. Toowoomba Chronicle | 19th August 2009

CHAMPION legal activist Erin Brockovich offers this piece of advice for Felton farmers whose livelihoods are under threat: Don’t give up.

Ms Brockovich was in the Lockyer Valley yesterday to officially open a new legal residential training facility.

The blonde advocate didn’t mince words when talking about big businesses conducting deals that compromise the health and integrity of communities.

“We don’t want our corporate neighbours to pollute our environment, but more often than not that is what happens,” Ms Brockovich said.

“The community needs to turn their anger and passion and heated arguments into a connection.

“They need to work with the industry to find a way not to have (the mine) here.”

Ms Brockovich was immortalised by Julia Roberts in the film, Erin Brockovich.

The film told the story of Hinkley townspeople who were being poisoned by a chemical that leached into their water supply.

Tony Moore, Brisbane Times
August 16, 2009 - 4:24PM

Environmental fighter Erin Brockovich told a host of Brisbane media this morning that government environmental agencies needed extra funding for independent research so they do not have to rely on "industry" research.

Ms Brockovich said she still had no faith in government environmental agencies protection of the public, describing the organisations as underfunded, understaffed and with the potential for bias.

"I would like to have faith in them, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that I don't ," she said.

"I am certainly frustrated with the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) currently in the United States of America, " she said.

Ms Brockovich said her experience with government agencies suggested "science lags behind the law" and the people affected come a distant third because well-meaning employees could not provide unbiased advice.

"They are understaffed, they are underfunded, and they can often can rely only on the science that industry is giving them because in the absence of having any funding themselves to be able to get out there and have a look at the situation, more often than not their hands are tied," she said.

"So I would like to see our governmental bodies providing more funding and more staff and more scientists to these agencies so we can get a fair assessment of what is happening."

"A fair assessment. You know, science lags behind the law more often that not.

"And with no funding they have to rely on the information that industry scientists have given them.

"And that is not always a fair assessment of what is happening to a population."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Friends of Felton support act for Graham Brown in Brisbane

Who's Graham Brown? Here's an article from the Sydney Morning Herald in April -

Mining stalwart sees no future in carbon plan
Paddy Manning, Sustainable Investing
SMH Business
April 25, 2009

Kevin Rudd should meet Graham Brown before he decides to spend billions of dollars on carbon capture and storage. A coalminer for more than 20 years, Brown retired in 2007 and is happy to call a spade a bloody shovel.

Brown, 57, has his own theory on why good money is being wasted on a technology very few have faith in.

Brown, from the Hunter Valley, originally worked in the construction industry, in open-cut and underground coalmines, including for Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

He is a staunch unionist but does not toe the corporate line on CCS parroted by officials from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Brown's main motivation is to see his former colleagues retrained to be able to exit a fading coal industry. He joined the NSW Greens after meeting state MP Lee Rhiannon, who said the party's policy was to make the transition to a clean energy economy with no job losses.

Brown is not a politician and does not want to be one. But he is active locally and takes any opportunity to speak on the transition away from coal.

Last year he took part in a Greenpeace blockade of the Eraring power station, and attracted media attention as one of a handful of miners sympathetic to the action.

"I'm not the only one in the mining industry," Brown says. "There's quite a few and they're coming on board all the time. The blokes in the industry, they're fully aware that there's a problem with burning the coal. They're interested in where they fit into the situation."

Brown is not funded by anyone. He gets a kick out of putting some of the retirement savings he earned from mining back into the cause.

I saw Brown speak at a climate change rally in Sydney in November and was struck by his denunciation of CCS. He says most people working at the coalface know CCS is "just not do-able".

"In the beginning there wasn't a lot of view either way on it but now, because it's been going so long, a lot of the blokes are up to speed on it and they are fully aware that it's nonsense. It's never going to get off the ground. The technology's so expensive that it's not going to be economical."

The main problem is the sheer volume of carbon dioxide that needs to be captured and stored. It is hard to visualise. Brown explains it this way: for every tonne of coal burnt there is 2.5 to 2.7 tonnes of CO2 to store. How big is a tonne of CO2? About 500 cubic metres, as a gas at sea level at room temperature.

Now say coal-fired power stations in Australia emit 100 million tonnes of CO2 each year. The Government hopes CCS will trap 20 per cent of those emissions. If the gas is compressed 500 times, that is about 20 million tonnes a year.

Transporting 20 million tonnes of highly compressed gas is no mean feat. "Look at the infrastructure that needs to be in place to get 80 million tonnes of coal to port," says Brown. "Moving gas is a different kettle of fish to moving coal, I can tell you, because it's got to be stored in an intrinsically safe way - either pipe or trucks or trains".

Where to put it all? Brown says there is really only one place where significant volumes of CO2 can be stored - the Cooper Basin in South Australia, where Santos recently shelved a $700 million CCS project. If that project were revived, Brown says it has been calculated that we would need a B-double lorry carrying six tonnes of CO2 leaving NSW for the Cooper Basin every 20 seconds to store 20 per cent of emissions from the state's power industry.

Then there is the problem of getting the stored CO2 into the ground or, even harder, beneath the sea floor. "You really need a mining industry to get it into the ground," says Brown. "And that's going to create more CO2."

There is also the risk of leakage, made worse by the increase in underground temperatures. "You're talking about a lot of pressure, and there's heaps of cracks. It's only got to come out through a slow leak and it's all for nothing.

"The second you put it into the ground, the more it will expand. If you're going to put it a kilometre underground where the temperature might be 65 degrees Centigrade, it's going to expand a monstrous amount. And that in itself will be the big mechanism where the rocks will crack.

"They can put it in there but whether it will stay there is another thing. I've pointed that out - others have too - and it's not long before people start nodding their head and laughing because they understand that it's not possible."

Brown says CCS is a no-brainer. "It just doesn't cut the ice any more. Most people know that it's a furphy." Brown says the coal companies know it too and until late last year, put little of their money into CCS. "They're not wasting money on it. They're just taking what they can from the Federal Government, and saying 'thank you very much'."

Their main interest is in ramping up extraction of coal-seam gas, Brown says. "Any kind of drilling technology that will be used to try and get this gas down, is also going to be reversed, to be able to be used to mine the carbon qualities of the coal in situ.

"They're having the taxpayer supply a lot of money for that research. They should be doing it themselves. They're going to piggyback on all this carbon capture and storage stuff and they will use that technology for their own benefit.

"It's not a matter of being solely for that but the coal companies already know that research needs to be done to get the gas out, and they will certainly use it if it's available. They might be greedy and they might have deep pockets, but they're not stupid."

For Brown, it means more job losses down the track. "If they can get the methane out of the coal seams, or convert the gas to hydrogen, without having to mine the coal, they'll use that gas and will hardly have to employ anyone."

What really annoys Brown is the attitude of officials at the CFMEU, in particular general president of the mining and energy division, Tony Maher.

He has lined up with coal companies and is backing CCS rather than focusing on retraining workers to get jobs in the green-collar economy.

"Tony Maher made some statements in Newcastle two years ago. I've got them on tape. In a submission to Newcastle council, he called the transition away from the coal industry to anything else the 'geriatric solution'. He made a statement we are by and large too old, and our skill base from the start is too low, to be trained in anything else, insinuating that we should stay in the coal industry because that's all we're good for.

"I played that tape to some of the blokes at work and I can tell you they weren't real happy with Tony, basically calling them untrainable boneheads.

"They didn't like it at all .. We can be trained in anything. Who do you think maintains the equipment in the mining industry? Doesn't he know that a lot of the truck drivers and plant operators are actually some sort of a tradesman? We definitely have the skills base.

"And who does he think is going to do the work in the renewable energy industry, and other industries as well, because statistics in Europe - and a study by Greenpeace on the Central Coast of NSW - show that there's six times more jobs in the transition away from coal than there is in it.

"I think we should be gunning for it. We definitely have the skills and he didn't do a very good service to his members. I don't see why miners should be thrown on the scrap heap by a bloody coal company. There should be a mechanism to let them flow on to other jobs."

Media coverage of Barnaby Joyce visit

There's a video here of Barnaby Joyce's visit to Felton on 8th August.

There are media reports on the visit here
and here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Barnaby Joyce gives his word to Felton

Senator Barnaby Joyce visited Felton on Saturday to meet with Friends of Felton.
To rapturous applause, Senator Joyce gave the commitment that he would do whatever he could to stop coal mining development proceeding at Felton.

"There is only two per cent of prime agricultural land in Australia and we should not be mining it. There is an abundance of land that has coal underneath it. The state government may lose seats at the next election if they allow this to be mined. It would be criminal to turn this region into another Hunter Valley." Senator Joyce said.

He said state governments issued mining leases for the sake of raising capital and before the farmers knew it, their land was being sought for mining.

"We must protect this land so we have the capacity to feed ourselves in the future," Senator Joyce said. "The debate has started about whether this area should be mined and now we are raising the profile. Ms Bligh, in this current politically sensitive climate, does not want to do anything else wrong so we think she will listen."

Senator Joyce promised Friends of Felton that he would arrange for the ongoing Senate Inquiry into Food Security to have a hearing at Felton.

"The Senators on that committee need to come to Felton to appreciate the importance of this issue in the national context" Senator Joyce said.

Senator Joyce assisted the children of Felton to launch 300 helium balloons printed with "No Mines on Darling Downs - our foodbowl". The biodegradable balloons were designed to represent coal dust and pollution from the proposed coal development, and were tagged with a phone number for the chance to win a prize. Friends of Felton will track the progress of the balloons to see how far they go.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ambre Energy paid to dine with the Premier

Article from today's Toowomba Chronicle -

Dinner with Premier angers Felton farmers
By Jim Campbell
6th August 2009

Photo:Kevin Farmer

FELTON farmers were outraged yesterday after they learnt that mining company Ambre Energy took part in a pay-per-view business dinner with Premier Anna Bligh in December last year.

Ambre Energy is proposing to build an open-cut coal mine and petrochemical plant in the Felton Valley, 20 minutes south of Toowoomba.

It has been revealed the company paid an unknown amount of money to be part of the exclusive dinner in December.

Representatives from Surat Basin mining company Linc Energy were also at the dinner.

Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath yesterday described the arrangement as "disgraceful" and "undemocratic".

"How can we possibly have a fair and balanced judgement here when the company that is proposing the project is paying money to have dinner with the Premier?"

"The whole thing stinks," Mr McCreath said.

"We’re a community group, we don’t have a lot of money and we’re up against these big companies with lots of dollars."

Mr McCreath said Friends of Felton was currently raising money to employ professionals to contribute to their submission to Ambre Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement.

"The question of access is core to all of this," Mr McCreath said.

Ambre Energy director of business development Michael van Baarle said he paid money to attend the Labor Party dinner which he said was a fund-raiser for Member for Ipswich West Wayne Wendt.

Mr van Baarle said he went to school with Mr Wendt in Ipswich and wanted to support him.

He said the Premier was at the dinner, but he did not have a conversation with her.

He said Ambre Energy representatives had never paid money for direct access to Ministers.

Ms Bligh said this week she was banning her Ministers and State MPs from attending these types of functions and has challenged Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek to do the same.