Solid Energy and the country’s environmental watchdog are at loggerheads about the viability of proposed lignite developments in Southland.
Dr Jan Wright, the parliamentary commissioner for the environment, released a report today in strong opposition to large-scale lignite developments.
Both state-owned enterprise Solid Energy and the L&M Group are investigating lignite developments over thousands of hectares in Southland and Otago.
American regulators have approved an experimental North Dakota coal drying plant that has imported more than 400 tonnes of New Zealand lignite to test in the hope the same process can be used in Southland.
But the processing of the coal has been put back to late March or early April, after delays to construction of the plant by a fierce winter, said a Solid Energy project manager, Greg Visser.
"There have been days of minus-40degC where workers were able to throw a glassful of water in the air and see it freeze before it hit the ground," Mr Visser said.