A major coal seam gas development in Southern Queensland has been criticised by the Federal Government’s recently established Independent Scientific Expert Committee for failing to adequately account for potential environmental impacts.
The Independent Scientific Expert Committee (IESC) was set up by the Federal Government on the urging of rural independent MP Tony Windsor to advise on the water impacts of resource projects.
The committee recently reviewed a draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Arrow Energy for its large coal seam gas project on Queensland’s Darling Downs.
It concluded that the EIS in its current form fails to adequately address environmental impacts of national significance, is based on inadequate modelling and notes that the project is likely to cause water drawdowns and, if wells fail, also has the potential to cause aquifer interconnectivity.
The Arrow Energy CSG project covers some of Queensland’s most productive farming lands on the Darling Downs and also straddles the Condamine Alluvium, a large freshwater aquifer that provides water for rural communities and irrigation and livestock enterprises in the region.
Arrow Energy told Beef Central this morning that it was aware of the advice from the IESC.
“Arrow is currently reviewing the matters contained in the advice,” a company statement said.
“The EIS that has been considered by the Committee was completed 14 months ago.
“The supplementary report to the Environmental Impact Statement is currently under preparation.
“Arrow takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and welcomes the transparency.”
Anti-coal seam gas campaigner Drew Hutton, who heads the Lock the Gate Alliance, said the IESC report was an unequivocal "fail" mark for Arrow Energy’s draft EIS.
"The IESC report is nothing short of a damning critique of the draft EIS, raising numerous concerns about impacts on groundwater, including potential draw downs in the Condamine Alluvium aquifer that irrigates the central Darling Downs region" Mr Hutton said.
"This report basically exposes failures on every front – well integrity, disposal of produced salt and waste water, groundwater modelling, surface water and groundwater connectivity modelling, and impacts on nationally protected matters.
"These issues are fundamental to any project of this size and the fact that the best water experts in the country have given such a damning critique suggests that Arrow should be required to go back to the drawing board and start again.
"We're asking for the process to be suspended and for Arrow to be required to go back to the drawing board and meet the requirements of the IESC. They should not be allowed to proceed to the Supplementary EIS stage with this cloud hanging over their project.
"Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, must show some nous and reject this proposal.
"In the meantime the farming community at Cecil Plains and elsewhere across the tenement will continue to lock their gates on Arrow. This will be a major problem for the company because the Cecil Plains area contains at least a third of the gas being sought.”
Some of the key conclusions reached by the Committee in its advice on the draft Arrow Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were that:
- "the draft Environmental Impact Statement does not adequately address potential impacts to Matters of National Environmental Significance"
- "The Committee considers that Matters of National Environmental Significance are likely to be impacted by drawdown associated with cumulative impacts caused by this and other projects"
- "The Committee does not consider that the modelling undertaken is adequate and includes a number of limitations…… This raises concerns about the robustness of the drawdown predictions made using the numerical model."
- "The Committee considers that the proponent has not adequately developed a site and regional water balance that allows an assessment of cumulative impacts."
- "The Committee considers that well failure during construction, operation and decommissioning phases of the project has the potential to cause aquifer inter-connectivity….The Committee considers that a risk assessment of well integrity is required to enable potential impacts at a regional scale to be adequately determined.
- "The Committee considers that further information is required to make an adequate assessment of potential impacts from brine disposal, including storage locations, water quantities and water qualities. Further, eco-toxicity tests are required to support proposal disposal options".
The IESC report can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/coal-seam-gas-mining/project-advice/pubs/iesc-advice-arrow.pdf