Landholders Welcome Federal Scrutiny of Coal Seam Gas

Landholder group Basin Sustainability Alliance has enthusiastically welcomed yesterday’s announcement that coal seam gas (CSG) and large coal mining developments, which have a significant impact on a water resource, will require Federal Government assessment and approval.

BSA Chairman David Hamilton said the amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) Act was a long awaited step forward for landholders.

“BSA hopes the change will not only impact future projects, but will require States to have a relook at existing projects.

“We believe that this gives weight to the Federal Government to force respective state governments to re-condition environmental authorities relating to groundwater impacts for projects already approved.

“The sheer size, scale and location of these combined projects, and the fact that have been rolled out before the science has been completed, is very concerning. Their impacts are unknown and uncertain and their potential to cause contamination make them a must to be properly handled on a national level,” Mr Hamilton said.

“We have long struggled with the right of way of mining and petroleum companies to take and interfere with water resources, when agricultural water use has been significantly curtailed in an already stressed system.”

“The large increase in the take of water from aquifers by the CSG industry is unsustainable – in the driest country on earth, we must not sacrifice our underground water for a short-term financial gain.”

“CSG companies should have their water take regulated just as other water users have their take regulated to ensure water sustainability for future generations.  Federal Government intervention might achieve this.”

Mr Hamilton said that state governments must consider new information and, if necessary, amend environmental authority conditioning.  “Failure to do so could give rise to negligence.”

He said the new amendment gives greater scope to the Federal Government’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) which in recent weeks issued advice that a proposed Queensland CSG project had the potential to impact on Matters of National Environmental Significance through changes to surface water hydrology and water quality, and changes to groundwater hydrology.

“Ultimately this new federal amendment could indirectly limit CSG and mining developments, so it is understandable that Minister Seeney, Queensland Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning is upset, but, for those of us living in potential gasfields, the crux of the matter is ensuring the safety and the long term sustainability of our water resources.  And this amendment goes part way towards doing just that.”

“Underground water is a community resource and must be managed as such.  It must not be wasted.

The CSG industry must operate without any net negative impact on our water resources.  If they cannot do so, their operations should be limited until they can,” Mr Hamilton said.