Government extends powers over CSG projects


Government extends powers over CSG projects

By chief political correspondent Emma Griffiths, ABCUpdated March 12, 2013, 5:23 pm



New laws covering the approval of coal seam gas projects have closed an “enormous gap” in the process, according to Independent MP Tony Windsor.

The Federal Government has announced laws to ensure that any coal seam gas or large coal mine development which has “a significant impact on a water resource” must be assessed by the Commonwealth.

Mr Burke says a significant number of projects that have already begun the approval process will be asked to provide more information.

He says the public expects him to consider the effect on water but, until now, he has not had the power to.Â

“I have been with members of parliament to a number of places, whether it has been the Northern Rivers, the New England area, the Darling Downs, and the consistent concern is very much the question what is the impact on water,” he said.

“Whenever I have to, as Australia’s Environment Minister, make a decision about approval or otherwise for coal seam gas or a large coal mine, people quite properly expect that I will have taken into account by law all the impacts on water resources.

“It’s not an unreasonable expectation.”

Mr Windsor, along with farming and environment groups, has been calling for more federal intervention in relation to the controversial mining method.

“I think it’s closed an enormous gap,” Mr Windsor said.

“We will have a real process based on science.”

Coal seam gas is extracted from underground reservoirs, using a method called ‘fracking’.

The debate has pitted mining companies against environmentalists and farmers who are concerned about the impacts on the water table and the loss of viable agricultural land.

Mr Burke says he hopes this measure will help manage the conflict.

“You can’t talk about impact on water without talking about both environmental and other productive uses,” he said.

“So I think those involved in agriculture will be very pleased to see this.

“It means that the integrity of any final decision will,I think,have a lot more behind it.”

The legislation to change the law is due to be introduced to parliament in the next two weeks.

Queensland Deputy Premier, saying it will delay important projects.
“It’s all about a desperate politician looking for a political opportunity in an emotive issue that lends itself to scare campaigns,” he said.

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