Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland (EnvA-CQ) has launched legal action in the Land Court to overturn the Queensland Palaszczuk Government’s approval of Blue Energy’s Bowen Basin gas project.
Enva-CQ is being represented in court by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), and is challenging the approval using merits appeal rights.
Blue Energy plans to install 530 gas wells across more than 1000ha of bushland, which includes prime habitat for koalas and other threatened species on Western Kangoulu and Barada Barna Country in Central Queensland.
The company proposes drilling to a depth of almost 1.2km, penetrating and potentially contaminating or draining several freshwater aquifers. It plans to install about 700km of roads and pipelines that would fragment bushland and degrade wildlife habitat. Over the life of the project, it would directly and indirectly emit at least 5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is more than a year’s emissions from one million petrol-powered passenger vehicles. However, the true emissions figure from the project may be much greater.
Despite the Isaac Regional Council formally opposing the gasfield, due to fears it “posed an unacceptable risk to the long-term social sustainability of the Isaac Region in its current form”, the Queensland Palaszczuk Government approved the project earlier this year.
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland Director Dr Coral Rowston said: “We have been frustrated with Queensland’s poor assessment process of many coal and gas applications over the last few years.
“Blue Energy’s coal seam gas application is a great example of this. It is a project that was approved with no detail about the significant environmental impacts it will cause.
“Blue Energy was given an environmental authority approval despite these failings in its application.
“We have concerns that the groundwater modelling was inadequate and that there is not enough information to determine the real impacts on the local landholders that rely on their bores for water supply or the Lake Elphinstone nationally important wetland.
“As well, Blue Energy applied for an approval over three separate areas, but only did a wildlife survey over one of these areas. This was the area with the least vegetation and the company didn’t even survey the most heavily vegetated area.
“We know that there are many threatened species, such as koalas, greater gliders, and squatter pigeons, that will be impacted by Blue’s gas project, but the company was given an approval on the basis that it will ‘investigate further’ before progressing its damaging gas project.
“Coal and gas projects are industries of the past, not the future. Despite claims to the contrary, the Queensland Palaszczuk Government is still approving dodgy fossil fuel projects.”
EDO Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said: “Our client believes the Department of Environment and Science was not able to properly assess Blue Energy’s development proposal because the evidence the company provided was wholly inadequate.
“We are representing EnvA in its appeal of the department’s decision to approve this development where there is not sufficient information to understand the impacts threatened by the project.
“On the face of it, it is apparent that the proposal will have a very significant negative impact on a range of environmental values, from water volume and quality, threatened species habitat, and the climate.
“The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it clear that no more fossil fuel sources can be opened if the world is serious about living up to its commitments and avoiding a significantly worsening climate crisis.
“It was therefore unreasonable for the Department of Environment and Science to give this project the green light.”
The legal appeal comes shortly after groundbreaking footage captured by the Australian Conservation Foundation revealed massive plumes of unaccounted for methane erupting from coal seam gas projects across Southern Queensland, and called for no further approvals of coal or gas until gas emissions are better known and regulated.
March 16, 2023 – Approval granted – Department of Environment and Science approves Environmental Assessment (EA) under s 172(2)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act).
May 12, 2023 — Review requested — Internal review of approval requested by EnvA CQ. Isaac Regional Council also lodged an appeal.
July 3, 2023 — Review completed — Original approval upheld by the government.
August 2, 2023 – Merits appeal launched in the Land Court of Queensland.
GROUNDS FOR THE APPEAL
· Water (groundwater and surface water)
· Climate change
Proponent: Blue Energy Limited on behalf of title holder Eureka Petroleum.
Location: Moranbah / Glenden – the Isaac Region of Queensland.
Disturbance area: 1,046ha.
Number of wells: Up to 530 well pads across the three tenements.
Depth of drilling: 1,130m.
Pipeline: Maximum of 700km of linear infrastructure.
Life of facility: 20 years.
Gas reserves: 363 petajoules (pj) of reserves and 1,278 pj of contingent resources (probably an underestimate).
Associated works (not part of the application): To be operational, the project requires compression facilities, major gas transmission pipelines including the proposed North Queensland Gas Pipeline, Arrow Bowen Pipeline and compression stations at West of Sapphire. These are not part of the contested approval.