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The public liable for future carbon leaks: Gr -

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ELEANOR HALL: It's the pollution solution which has so far eluded science, but the Federal
Government is nonetheless laying the legislative framework for carbon capture and storage in
Australia.

But the Greens say the draft legislation would make the Federal Government liable for any future
problems with carbon sequestration, as Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: Carbon capture and storage is the technology that could allow the coal and petroleum
industries to continue, full steam ahead, putting the pollution underground, instead of into the
atmosphere.

But it remains to be seen whether it's even possible to capture greenhouse gases on a large scale
and then sequester them forever in underground cavities.

That raises the issue of liability. When a hole is filled with CO2 and sealed, who's responsible if
there's a leak and the pollution goes into the sky?

The Greens climate change spokeswoman, Senator Christine Milne, says the draft legislation, which
would allow carbon capture and storage, is the Federal Government's attempt to give potential
investors more certainty.

CHRISTINE MILNE: It's a pipe dream at the moment and all the experiments, the falling over, faster
than the investors are investing in them, so what they want is some guarantee that if they put
their money into it and that it failed, they won't be up for any more money in the future.

SIMON LAUDER: One of the world's leaders in carbon capture and storage is the CO2 Cooperative
Research Centre, based in Victoria.

It's chief executive, Dr Peter Cook, agrees the issue of liability is one potential investors want
to see cleared up.

PETER COOK: To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure how the draft legislation does or does not
address that. It's certainly a concern that people have raised and it's, I think it needs to be put
in perspective in that the risk arising, the risk of leakage arising from a well characterised
site, in other words, one that we fully understand, is pretty low, in fact it's very, very low.

SIMON LAUDER: Has it been hard convincing potential investors that's the case?

PETER COOK: I think that investors will need to have some certainty about how the long-term
liability is to be handled. It's very difficult at the moment to get, in fact impossible, to get a
long-term liability insurance for this or anything else that extends over a very, very long period
of time.

SIMON LAUDER: Is the best solution then for the Federal Government to take liability after a site
has been closed?

PETER COOK: It is a potential option for the Federal Government to take on the liability.

SIMON LAUDER: Senator Milne says the draft legislation shows the Federal Government plans to do
just that.

CHRISTINE MILNE: The legislation as it stands has the Minister being able to issue a site closure
certificate once he's satisfied that the CO2 has been pumped into the hole in the ground as
required. But the point is, if it leaks out in the future, then the taxpayer is going to have to
pay to take out that same volume of carbon dioxide from the economy some other way.

SIMON LAUDER: Why would someone have to pay because some CO2 has leaked out of an underground site?

CHRISTINE MILNE: Because we will have a cap on our national emissions, and for every time a carbon
dioxide go into atmosphere, we are going to have to pay in terms of making good somewhere else,
either by off-setting, or by bringing in some other technology to take that carbon out of the
atmosphere.

SIMON LAUDER: So isn't it good that the Federal Government's taking some sort of responsibility for
that?

CHRISTINE MILNE: No, the Federal Government is actually passing that liability onto the taxpayers,
and why should the people of Australia have to pay in the future, when the coal companies are
making their profits right now and have done for a 100 years, in order to have contributed to the
greenhouse problem that we have now.

SIMON LAUDER: The Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, is in Cabinet meeting
today and not available for interview.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.