Landholders call for urgent inquiry into coal seam gas


Calls for an inquiry into the coal seam gas industry are mounting after a former Queensland Government bureaucrat spoke out about serious flaws in the approval process for major projects. 

Senior environmental specialist Simone Marsh was part of the Queensland Government team that approved multi-billion dollar LNG projects for Santos and the Queensland Gas Company in 2010.

She told the ABC Four Corners program on Monday that the environmental assessment process for the major CSG projects a "farce", with approvals rushed and environmental impacts not properly assessed.

Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA) chairman David Hamilton said Monday night’s program echoed long-running concerns that the Queensland Government had approved massive CSG developments without proper consideration of the environmental impacts.

Mr Hamilton congratulated Simone Marsh for her “courage in coming forward” and exposing flawed approval processes that look to have resulted in the CSG projects proceeding without thorough assessment of risk.

“The question is: Will this current government act in the best interests of the people of Queensland and the environment, and launch a proper inquiry into this industry?”

Mr Hamilton said the Four Corners program highlighted issues that BSA had been raising for several years – the imbalance of power in relation to landholder rights, potential contamination and loss of groundwater supplies, land impacts, and the general lack of scientific and baseline data.

“Queenslanders rely on the Government to do its job well, and these latest revelations question whether the government has given preference to the CSG industry over landholders, farmers and rural communities.”

“It looks like the economic welfare of the State has been held in higher regard than other factors such as the environment. We need to know that the government takes the sustainability of our land, water and lifestyles seriously and has the power to stop CSG activities if the risk is too high.”

BSA wrote to the Government back in November last year, asking if the Government ‘has the ability to make the ultimate decision of ceasing certain CSG activities in Queensland if faced with significant information gaps and/or an unacceptably high risk of cumulative adverse impacts’.

“We still have not received a response,” Mr Hamilton said. “This is obviously very worrying.”

He said the report on Four Corners again highlighted the need for science.

“We welcome the proposed work being planned by the Queensland Government on underground water impacts, but this is being done after the horse has already bolted. We desperately need the science on a whole range of issues to be undertaken before more of our land and water is put at risk.”

Mr Hamilton said the ‘spin tactics’ of CSG companies had gone on long enough.

“We will not trust APPEA or the CSG companies while ever they use their power to put pressure on landholders into signing contracts and use tactics like incentive payments for fast signing. We are also concerned about their attempts to discredit scientists, like the SCU scientists working on fugitive emissions. The CSG industry is welcome to question the science, and refute it if they have better data, but not to make personal attacks on the scientists themselves.”



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