Energy efficiency | Subscribe News

Tony Windsor warns Coalition on coal seam gas threat to water

Tony Windsor, Australia

Tony Windsor said the government was looking to bypass the ‘water trigger’ legislation he introduced in the last parliament. Photograph: Mike Bowers


Powered by article titled “Tony Windsor warns Coalition on coal seam gas threat to water” was written by Oliver Milman, for on Monday 2nd December 2013 05.18 UTC

Tony Windsor, the former independent MP, has warned the Coalition it risks haemorrhaging support in its rural heartland over its backing of coal seam gas extraction, claiming the industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, “doesn’t have a clue” about the issue.

Windsor told Guardian Australia there was “great concern” in rural and regional Australia over the Coalition’s desire to streamline environmental regulations around coal and gas projects by handing approvals powers to the states.

The former MP for New England said the government was looking to bypass the “water trigger” legislation he introduced in the last parliament, which requires the federal environment minister to assess any development that is likely to have an impact on water quality.

“I think they would ideally want to repeal it under the guise of green tape, once there is a change in the Senate. Either that or there will be subtle instructions to those carrying out the assessments. Given that the government seems to want to remove anything with independent or Labor hands on it, anything can happen,’ he said.

Opponents of coal seam gas extraction claim the process, which involves “fracking” underground minerals in order to release gas, threatens natural aquifers which are vital for rural and farming communities.

“These guys [the Coalition] are pandering to the mining and coal seam gas sector, which will potentially lead to conflict in some areas,” Windsor said.

“We simply don’t know what the impact on water is, which is where the water trigger and risk assessments come into it.

“They’ll try to bypass the water trigger, no doubt about that, and they’ll have some allies in the Labor party for that. Most of the people in parliament don’t come from the areas where there’s a problem, but I think people will look at what happens and vote accordingly.”

Windsor said that scientific analysis of the impact of coal seam gas on water is being sidelined in favour of political considerations.

The coal seam gas industry has turned its attention to NSW, amid warnings that the state could suffer a gas shortage if further development isn’t allowed. Critics such as the Lock the Gate activist group claim that ambitious plans to export gas, where prices are higher than the domestic market, prove that talk of a shortage is commercially self-interested.

The NSW government recently placed a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction in certain areas to protect Sydney’s drinking water, although Macfarlane, the federal industry minister, has previously said it is vital to extract “every molecule of gas” to help boost economic growth.

Windsor, whose former seat includes the Liverpool plains farming region which is being eyed for fracking projects, said: “Science has to be the determiner here, not politics. The Coalition wants to get to the politics and bugger the science.

“They don’t want a bunch of learned people having a say in this and removing their capacity to help their mates in the mining industry.

“I’ve known Ian Macfarlane for a long time, since before I was in parliament. I don’t think he has a clue about the Liverpool plains or the issue of water.

“I don’t know how we can use a Pilbara model of mining in an area that’s so sensitive to water, given all the agony over the Murray-Darling Basin. But Tony Abbott clearly thinks that can be done.

“It’s a nonsense to say that the toilets won’t work in NSW if we don’t let the gas companies in. If you base it on science, there’s no real argument. If you rush and cut so-called green tape, the community will get to the point where they lose trust because the homework hasn’t been properly done.”

Macfarlane told Guardian Australia that the Coalition backs the right of farmers to deny access to coal seam gas companies, as well as safeguards for underground water supplies.

“Coal seam gas mining and farming can co-exist,” he said. “The evidence is clear from Queensland, where several thousand co-existence agreements have been signed.

“The Australian government also supports the process put in place in NSW, whereby the NSW chief scientist is examining issues relating to coal seam gas development.

“The government believes the findings of the chief scientist should guide future development in the industry.

“The Coalition believes the best outcomes, which are mutually beneficial to all stakeholders, can be brought about through open discussions and co-operative negotiations between landholders and mining companies, within the framework of laws and regulations set out by the relevant state government.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.