Senate submission lifts the lid on systematic failings of offset processes for coal and gas projects

Published: April 04, 2014

Critically endangered ecological communities, World Heritage areas and Australia’s international obligations are being put at risk by the Department of Environment’s failure to properly assess, monitor and implement environmental offsets in the coal and gas industry, Lock the Gate warned today.

In a wide-ranging submission to the Senate Inquiry into Environmental Offsets, Lock the Gate said the federal Department of Environment and successive environment ministers had failed to uphold any kind of consistency, care or common sense in applying the principles of offsetting.

The submission focuses on four case studies that illustrate repeated failings to make coal and unconventional gas miners comply with the conditions of their own approvals.

Lock the Gate describes the offset system as “bungled and abused” and says approvals for the projects covered in the four case studies should be suspended pending further investigation into the adequacy of their offsets.

“Irreparable loss and damage to unique places has been approved using “offsetting” as a glib placebo to disguise our failure to fulfill basic obligations under international conventions and domestic law,” the submission said.

Lock the Gate Policy Officer Georgina Woods said, “Our submission exposes several instances of  Department of Environment complying with requests by coal and gas project proponents to change the conditions of their approvals multiple times to allow for their repeated failure to fulfill the offset conditions imposed on their approvals.”

The case studies covered by the report include the four LNG terminals in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area; the Ravensworth, Ulan and Warkworth coal mines in the Hunter region of NSW; the Maules Creek coal project in Leard Forest in north-west NSW; and the China First coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

In the case of the China First coal mine in the Galilee Basin, approval has been granted to clear 5 per cent of the National Reserve System in the poorly represented Desert Uplands bioregion, including Bimblebox Nature Refuge, in exchange for “securing” 10,000ha of habitat for the Black-throated finch.

“Bimblebox is already protected with the highest form of conservation covenant available on private land under Queensland law. The China First approval illustrates the abuse of the offset system as mining companies can come into areas already supposedly protected for perpetuity, such as Bimblebox, the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, or a previous offset area.”

Lock the Gate has called on the senate committee to call Environment Minister Greg Hunt and former Minister Tony Burke as witnesses to the inquiry to answer questions raised by the case studies.

For further information contact: Georgina Woods 0437 405 932

A summary of the submission is available here:

Pictures of the areas sacrificed in the faulty offsetting agreements highlighted in the report are available here: 

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