CSG approvals process worse than Bjelke-Petersen

Published: February 11, 2013

The approvals process for coal seam gas projects by the Queensland Coordinator-General in 2010 possibly breached the Environmental Protection Act and needs to be investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said Right to Information documents showed State and Commonwealth public servants were concerned that the Environmental Impact Assessments from the companies did not contain adequate information on underground water impacts, greenhouse gas impacts, cumulative impacts or site-specific information - the most important issues the companies needed to deal with.

The Santos project contained so little information about underground water impacts the Coordinator-General could not even write a chapter in his Report on this topic.

Such information was required by the Terms of Reference for the EISs and needed to be available for the Coordinator-General to be able to write a report and impose meaningful conditions on the projects.

The RTI documents also reveal bureaucrats under enormous political pressure to rush the approvals process through.

"This process was so lacking in integrity it is much worse than anything seen in the Bjelke-Petersen days," Mr Hutton said.

"It is the worst public policy process I have seen in my 40 years of public life and it is hardly surprising that we are beginning to see the results on the Western Darling Downs with alarming levels of methane and other gases and people getting sick."

"If such basic information about the projects was so lacking, then it makes environmental disasters so much more likely."

Mr Hutton will be lodging a complaint with the Crime and Misconduct Commission over these approvals and will be calling for a public inquiry by the Commission.

"Any public servant who signs off on projects of this massive scale and potential for social and environmental impacts is possibly committing official misconduct," Mr Hutton said.

"There are also serious questions to be asked about the political pressure placed on public servants assigned the task of assessing the projects and the degree of access and influence over the process the companies had.

"The New South Wales ICAC is hearing evidence about serous corruption in the granting of coal export licences. 

"We need another such inquiry here in Queensland."

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