The Bill to amend the Federal Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, proposed by the Gillard government to assess the water impacts of coal and coal seam gas projects, will be little more than a toothless tiger unless a number of urgent amendments are made to it.
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has stated the new water trigger will apply to coal and coal seam gas and will ensure the impacts of these projects on water resources are properly assessed. However, the proposed Bill has serious flaws.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said his organisation would be lobbying hard before the Bill is debated in Parliament to ensure it is amended to do the job it is supposed to do. The Alliance is writing to all parties and parliamentary representatives today with an eight point plan to fix the Bill.
"There are several fatal flaws in the water Bill and, unless they are addressed by the Parliament, the much-vaunted water trigger will be little more than a shabby act of political grandstanding," said Drew Hutton, President of Lock The Gate Alliance.
"This Bill will mean nothing if the Commonwealth retains the right to simply hand the water powers back to the states after the election. We want to see these changes future-proofed, so our communities can have confidence they will deliver in the long-term.
"The gaping loopholes in the Bill also need to be fixed. As it stands now, the Bill provides so many exemptions that many of the most controversial coal and gas developments won't be covered by it.
"Two glaring examples are the Arrow Coal Seam Gas project on the Darling Downs and the Camden Gas project in Greater Western Sydney - neither project will be covered by the Bill because of the broad exemptions.
"The Arrow project will have a major impact on water resources on the Darling Downs, and it has been slammed for inadequate water assessment by the Expert Committee, but the exemptions mean that the Federal Minister won't be able to consider its impact on water.
"Another gaping loophole is the failure of the Bill to address shale gas and tight gas mining - which means that plans for massive shale gas development in the Northern Territory and Western Australia will not require assessments of water impacts" he said.