EDO’s public funding under fire

The NSW Minerals Council’s chief executive Stephen Galilee has urged Premier Barry O’Farrell to stop public funding of the Environmental Defenders Office because of the organisation’s potential to interrupt coal industry projects.

In a letter sent to the NSW premier last October Galilee said he was concerned about the office’s association with the anti-coal movement, the Herald reported.

"It is difficult to understand the logic behind NSW taxpayers’ funds being provided to an organisation intent on using those funds to lodge legal challenges against decisions taken on behalf of taxpayers by the NSW government,’’ he wrote.

‘‘It is even more absurd for these funds to be used to support a deliberate campaign of economic sabotage against an industry providing our most valuable export commodity.’’

Galilee also used the letter to request funding to the EDO cease as a “matter of urgency”.

Australian Coal Association chief executive Nikki Williams has also suggested in the past that the EDO should not be permitted to use public funding to mount cases against the decisions made by the Planning Assessment Commission.

The Herald reports that in the 2009-10 financial year the EDO received a 45 per cent funding increase from the Public Purpose Fund compared to the funding received in the three previous financial years.

‘‘This level of funding was retained in the financial years 2010-11 and 2011-12 even in circumstances where the income of the fund had reduced,’’ a spokeswoman for Acting Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said.

‘‘The Public Purpose Fund has not yet finalised funding to the EDO beyond March 2013.’’

The EDO positions itself as a community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental law and has led a number of high-profile cases on behalf of community organisations in New South Wales in recent years.

Current cases include Illawarra Residents for Responsible Mining Inc versus Gujarat NRE Coking Coal and Hunter Environment Lobby Inc versus Minister for Planning and Ulan Coal Mines Ltd.

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