A new draft plan (available here) reveals the Queensland Government still has no idea how to manage the many millions of tonnes of salt waste produced as a byproduct of polluting coal seam gas, more than a decade after the green light was given to the industry.
The Environment Department’s draft plan fails to conclusively identify a way to manage the estimated 5-6 million tonnes of salt “brine” the CSG industry is expected to produce.
Based exclusively on CSG industry feedback, the draft plan suggests storing the waste in landfill and using lining in an ill-considered and fraught solution to stop the salt leaching into the environment.
However, due to a lack of a coherent state policy, individual CSG companies are, in the mean time, able to apply to bury their waste in this manner on a case by case basis.
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland coordinator Ellie Smith said using lining to stop the brine entering the environment was not a long term solution.
“Dumping salt waste from CSG extraction in this manner is guaranteed to fail eventually, and would shunt the problem onto future generations, who would need to continuously monitor for seepages," she said.
“It’s remarkable that the coal seam gas industry has been allowed to expand so dramatically for more than a decade without a plan to dispose of these huge volumes of waste - it’s an extreme case of putting the cart before the horse.
“This latest consultation is extremely disappointing - it's a plan for a plan. It’s outrageous the Palaszczuk Government is even considering industry’s preference of burying the salt and washing its hands of the problem.
“The Palaszczuk Government needs to get on the front foot with this waste and use independent expert advice to find the best solution rather than just the cheap and nasty option that industry prefers.
“There are other options for salt waste disposal. We must not let the coal seam gas industry dictate how it will dispose of the many millions of tonnes of waste it is producing. To do so would be to the detriment of future generations.”
Queensland Conservation Council water policy officer Nigel Parratt said taking another decade to develop a plan for how CSG companies managed their salt waste passed the buck to future generations.
Under the Environment Department’s current processes, CSG companies can apply to bury their salt waste at any time, which means that potentially numerous salt dumps could be approved across the state years before the plan comes into effect.
“Coal seam gas companies have been operating at scale since the mid 2000s without a formal plan to manage their salt waste appropriately. Due to the risk to the environment, communities and agriculture, delaying putting in place a plan for how the CSG industry must manage its salt waste for another 10 years is inconceivable,” Mr Parratt said.