Federal MP Warren Entsch has urged environmental groups to back the Tully Millstream Hydroelectric Scheme if a feasibility study says the far north Queensland project is viable.
Mr Entsch, chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, and State Member for Hinchinbrook, Andrew Cripps, have called for a feasibility study to see if the hydroelectric project, first suggested in the 1980s, can play a major role in powering the region.
A feasibility study was carried out by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation in 1988, but the creation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, in which part of the scheme would have been located, saw the project placed on the back burner.
Mr Entsch had hoped Federal Cabinet could have signed off on another feasibility study in mid-August, but those hopes were dashed as the Government was embroiled in the furore over MPs’ citizenship.
Despite that hiccup, both Mr Entsch and Mr Cripps believe the time is now right to revisit the ambitious proposal.
And Mr Entsch believes green groups should support the project, as long as the feasibility study indicates it can be done in an economically and environmentally responsible manner.
“That is the real challenge for environmental groups,” Mr Entsch said.
“If the feasibility study says the project stacks up, environmentalists can’t say we oppose, for example, the Adani coal mine and also oppose Tully Millstream.
“If they oppose both, it begs the question: what will they accept?
“The Tully Millstream project has the potential to provide an alternative to the increasing use of fossil fuels to provide electricity.
“It also has the potential to power 174,000 households and provide a serious power resource in Far North Queensland.”
Mr Entsch said only one-quarter of the project would be within the World Heritage Area and three man-made dams already existed in that area.
He said he had urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other federal MPs to look seriously at the proposal.
Mr Cripps said the project fitted in with the Federal Government’s commitment to develop northern Australia and promote hydroelectricity as a means of providing reliable and cost-effective renewable energy.
He said the project was also a test of how serious environmental groups were about shifting the debate from a focus on maintaining old-growth forests to the need to find renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
“If they are serious about their concerns that climate change is being driven by carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels, common sense suggests that conservationists will risk being seen as hypocrites by not supporting the opportunity to secure 600 megawatts of renewable, reliable energy in North Queensland,” he said in a letter sent to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce recently.