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Confused ACCC Gas Supply Report misses the point

The report released today from the ACCC inquiry into the east coast gas market, which calls for an end to State based  gas moratoriums and regulation ignores the concerns in the community about the uncosted impacts of unconventional gas, says the Lock the Gate Alliance.

“The ACCC acknowledges that the cause of the current disruption in the east coast gas market was the rushed development of LNG exports from large new coal seam gas development in Queensland, but bizarrely, it seems to propose that more rushed unconventional gas development will alleviate this problem,” said the Alliance’s National Coordinator, Phil Laird.

“The environmental and social costs of gas to consumers and to affected communities has not been properly considered by the ACCC.

“The reason why moratoria are in place in Victoria and Tasmania, and why they are proposed in the Northern Territory and New South Wales, is because environmental regulation, insurance and management are not up to the job of preventing irreversible damage being inflicted on the public by unconventional gas operations. We’ve seen the disaster in Queensland, and clearly need more regulation, not less. 

“Weak, ambiguous approval conditions blur company liability and the failure to ensure gas drillers hold comprehensive environmental insurance to mitigate risk of environmental harm means that the gas industry is freeloading on the environment and affected communities.

“Only in November last year, prior to COAG, communities called on the Australian Government through the ACCC to look into the unconscionable way uninsured gas companies use the threat of land courts to force their way onto farmers land in Queensland and effectively transfer the environmental risk onto the landholder. 

“There was no response. Now we hear of a report calling for the end of state-based moratoriums, and loosening of regulation, making communities the scapegoats for problems that have been entirely the making of the greedy gas giants, and poor planning by State and Federal Governments. 

The reality of environmental externalities in Queensland has come home to roost where In the last few days Underground Coal Gasification company, Linc Energy and minerals processor, Queensland Nickel have collapsed leaving in their wake massive environmental liabilities. Liabilities borne by the community, not consumer markets.

“The Queensland Government has had to legislate to try and claw back these liabilities after the fact. A comprehensive environmental insurance requirement would ensure that the financial cost of future environmental hazards was being met now.

“Unlike the closed ACCC processes, the Federal Inquiry into Unconventional Gas has heard devastating evidence of environmental externalities from affected community members. Dewatered aquifers, water bore blow outs, uninsured cowboy outfits, falling mental health, contaminated land and air. All of which are  happening in Queensland now.

The rest of Australia has heard and seen the impacts to Queensland communities and are rightly saying ‘we don’t want that here’. The ACCC should go back to the drawing board, engage with communities about impacts, and properly quantify the costs of unconventional gas to people and the environment” he said. 

The ACCC report is available here. 

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