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Expert water committee falls at first hurdle

The Lock the Gate Alliance has reacted angrily to news that two coal seam gas wells were approved by the NSW
Government at Fullerton Cove, north of Newcastle, last week following advice from the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee set up by the Federal Government.

The two proposed pilot wells that are planned for drilling by Dart Energy are located next to the Hunter Wetlands
Ramsar site, an internationally significant wetland, and will involve drilling through the Tomago sand beds which provide drinking water for Newcastle.

"The decision by the interim expert water committee on the Fullerton Cove coal seam gas wells exposes deep flaws in the process that need to be fixed" said Drew Hutton, President of the Lock the Gate Alliance. 

"We are calling for the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to plug the holes exposed by this decision by amending the Bill which is currently before the Senate with regard to the Expert Committee.

"In its advice on the Fullerton Cove wells the Expert Committee acknowledged that 'the exposure and activation of acid sulphate soils could cause acidic run-off into the wetlands site'.

"The Committee also admitted that there was a 'lack of data about potential impacts of coal seam gas operations on the Ramsar site'.

"Despite these two damning statements, the Committee just went ahead and gave a green light to Dart Energy with some vague statements about gathering data. It did not even consider the impacts on the drinkingwater aquifer or the floodplain.

"This is what we feared most when the Committee was first suggested - that it would be just another tick-a-box process that delivered business as usual for the coal seam gas industry.

"We're calling on the Minister to fix the process – to require the Committee to abide by the precautionary principle and to put in place a moratorium on coal and gas developments until full bio-regional assessments
have been completed.

"This was the first big test for the expert water committee and it fell at the first hurdle.  The community expects a lot better," he said.

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