Federal cave-in on gas restrictions

Courier Mail - 3.12.2010

THE Federal Government was forced to water down its environmental conditions on a $15 billion coal seam gas project for Queensland after the company threatened to walk away.

Evidence of the threat came as the Government’s own National Water Commission raised fears of long-term impacts from the multiple projects planned for the Surat Basin.

A letter dated October 16 from Queensland Gas chief executive Catherine Tanna to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the conditions placed on the company’s plans were too severe.
“We have indicated to your officers that we have significant concerns with the proposed conditions relating to coal seam gas water management, offsets and the timing of various approvals,” Ms Tanna said.

Friends of the Earth activist Drew Hutton doubted all the conditions would be enforced.
“Queensland has a long history of non-enforcement of environmental regulation with regard to the mining industry which, basically, regulates itself,” he said. “This industry is too big and too powerful to be effectively regulated.”

Documents tabled in Federal Parliament last week show that at least one of the three projects approved had raised its own concerns about shallow groundwater contamination from salt ponds and chemical and fuel storage sites associated with processing plants.

There have also been warnings that underground acquifers would be so depleted by the projects that it could take centuries to replenish them.

The National Water Commission estimates the CSG industry would extract about 7500 gigalitres of water during the next 25 years – six times the capacity of Wivenhoe Dam.

“If not adequately managed and regulated, it risks having significant, long-term and adverse impacts on adjacent surface and groundwater systems,” the NWC said.


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