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Coal seam gas approvals reveal flawed system in Queensland

Last night's 4 Corners Program "Gas Leak" revealed not only a hasty and incompetent process in the approval of thousands of coal seam gas wells in Queensland in 2010 but also a potentially illegal one.

The key breach occurred with the failure by coal seam gas companies to provide the Queensland Government with sufficient information to enable a valid environmental authority (EA) to be provided.

The Lock the Gate Alliance said the state's Environmental Protection Act 1994  explicitly states the companies must provide a valid Environmental Management Plan before any EA can be granted.

Information provided by documents obtained under Right to Information by Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton and the 4 Corners interview by whistleblower Simone Marsh reveal that little of this necessary information was provided by either the Santos project (GLNG) or the QGC project (GCLNG).

Mr Hutton and Ms Marsh have taken complaints about this process to the state's Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC).

"Any public servant who has signed an environmental authority for any of these projects has breached several sections of the Environmental Protection Act and, therefore, is likely to have committed official misconduct," Mr Hutton said.

"This situation came about because of improper political pressure that was placed on the public servants, as Simone Marsh has described."

Mr Hutton thanked Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, for joining his and Ms Marsh's complaint to the CMC and believes the CMC should hold a full, open, public inquiry for a public.

"This is the biggest public policy failure I have seen in my 40 years of public life and deserves the sort of public inquiry that ICAC is currently conducting into mining activities in New South Wales," Mr Hutton said.

"This flawed process illustrates the folly of any attempt to to reduce so-called 'green tape'. The states cannot be trusted to be the only authority conducting environmental assessment of large projects when they are the main beneficiaries of royalties.

"The Federal Government must be prepared to take its fair share of responsibility. National action is needed, including stronger laws and a royal commission into corruption and maladministration associated with the mining and gas industries across the country.”

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