Carbon tax to slug regional councils
REGIONAL councils make up the bulk of 112 local authorities that could be forced to pay the carbon tax from July 1.
In Senate Estimates this week it was revealed the Clean Energy Regulator had written to an additional 104 councils warning they could be considered a "liable entity" under the carbon pricing scheme.
Eight councils were included on the initial list of 249 entities that could be liable to pay the carbon tax including Gladstone, Maranoa and Western Downs councils from within APN News and Media's readership area.
The letter, which APN Newsdesk has seen, informs each council it has been identified as "possibly operating a significant landfill", which could make it liable to pay the carbon price.
The councils received the letter this week and now have less than two weeks to reply.
"You may also operate other facilities, such as water treatment plants that could mean you are a liable entity," the letter sent by regulatory implementation branch general manager Shelly Cooper reads.
"If you consider that you will be a liable entity, please advise us in writing by the 31st of May, 2012."
NSW Local Government Association president and Coffs Harbour Mayor Keith Rhoades said the inclusion of "water treatment plants" had come as a shock.
"They've now thrown in water treatment plants for the first time," Cr Rhoades said.
"That's the first we've heard of it."
Cr Rhoades described the government's implementation of the carbon price as a "diabolical farce".
A CER spokesman said the letters were designed to help the councils "determine whether they may be liable".
"The Clean Energy Regulator is seeking a response from councils who may be liable so further advice and technical training can be provided and targeted appropriately," the spokesman said.
"Being on the Liable Entities Public Information Database does not mean that an entity will necessarily be liable for 2012-2013. This will depend on whether their emissions for 2012-13 exceed the threshold."
Opposition spokesman for regional development Barnaby Joyce said the carbon price was "always going to hit regional Australia the hardest".
He made the point 89 of the 112 councils were located outside capital cities.
"Because that is where most of Australia's mining and power generation occurs and a substantial section of manufacturing," Senator Joyce said.
"Many local governments remain completely in the dark about how much they will pay or even if they will pay. They must decide what to charge people for their rubbish on July 1, less than six weeks away.
"The rubbish dumped in six weeks could attract the tax over 40 years as it decomposes."
Indeed councils contacted by APN Newsdesk have expressed confusion over the implementation of the carbon pricing scheme.
Complicating matters is the fact the carbon price will only apply to pollution from waste deposited after July 1.
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus issued a statement on Tuesday confirming councils from around Australia had been asking how the carbon price would apply to pollution from landfill sites.
Mr Dreyfus said the potential effect on council rates had been "over-estimated, misrepresented or misreported".
"Most councils will have no carbon price liability at all from landfills," the statement read.
"Only large sites generating more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas pollution a year are covered. The majority of landfills are too small to be covered.
"The government has made rules deeming landfill emissions in 2012/13 to be zero, so council with large landfills will have no obligation in 2012/13."
Mr Dreyfus urged councils to capture methane to reduce their carbon price liability.
"Capturing enough methane to reduce a council's liability below the 25,000 tonne threshold will mean that the council will not incur the carbon price. Providing an incentive to cut pollution is what the carbon price is designed to do," the statement read.
"Councils can also use captured methane to generate electricity for the local community and generate another source of income under the Renewable Energy Target."
Mr Dreyfus said he had written to every council in Australia twice about the issue.HIT LIST
The local councils from within APN's readership area that could be forced to pay the carbon tax:
- Bundaberg Regional Council
- Gold Coast City Council
- Lockyer Valley Regional Council
- Mackay Regional Council
- Rockhampton Regional Council
- Sunshine Coast Regional Council
- Toowoomba Regional Council
- Central Highlands Regional Council
- Scenic Rim Regional Council
- Gladstone Regional Council
- Maranoa Regional Council
- Western Downs Regional Council
New South Wales
- Bellingen Shire Council
- Byron Shire Council
- Clarence Valley Council
- Coffs Harbour City Council
- Kyogle Council
- Lismore City Council
- Richmond Valley Council
- Tweed Shire Council