Lock the Gate Alliance has accused the Federal Environment Minister of ignoring expert water advice and bungling the conditions in his haste to approve the Maules Ck and Boggabri open-cut coal mines in north-west NSW yesterday.
The advice from the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee has just been released today, at the same time as a major error has been found in the Maules Ck approval.
Meanwhile, protest action has erupted at the Boggabri coal mine this morning, with a protester suspended high in a tree-sit and attached via cable to two bulldozers and two excavators that were clearing the forest for mining.
"The unseemly haste with which Tony Burke approved these mines yesterday is evident in a trillion dollar mistake in the approval - clause 16 requires the miners to pay '$1,500,000 million' instead of $1.5 million for threatened species recovery work," said Carmel Flint, campaign co-ordinator with Lock The Gate Alliance.Read more
The Gillard Government has continued its woeful record of capitulation to big coal and gas mining by today approving three highly contentious mining projects - two coal mines near Maules Creek in north-west NSW and a coal seam gas field near Gloucester.
The Federal Government has now approved over 18,000 coal seam gas wells in Australia and every single coal mine that has been referred to it. Legal challenges are now likely, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance.
"Last week Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke slammed the NSW Government for inadequate controls on mining, and this week he has caved in and signed off on their failings," said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for Lock The Gate Alliance.Read more
The approvals process for coal seam gas projects by the Queensland Coordinator-General in 2010 possibly breached the Environmental Protection Act and needs to be investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said Right to Information documents showed State and Commonwealth public servants were concerned that the Environmental Impact Assessments from the companies did not contain adequate information on underground water impacts, greenhouse gas impacts, cumulative impacts or site-specific information - the most important issues the companies needed to deal with.
The Santos project contained so little information about underground water impacts the Coordinator-General could not even write a chapter in his Report on this topic.
Such information was required by the Terms of Reference for the EISs and needed to be available for the Coordinator-General to be able to write a report and impose meaningful conditions on the projects.
The RTI documents also reveal bureaucrats under enormous political pressure to rush the approvals process through.
"This process was so lacking in integrity it is much worse than anything seen in the Bjelke-Petersen days," Mr Hutton said.
"It is the worst public policy process I have seen in my 40 years of public life and it is hardly surprising that we are beginning to see the results on the Western Darling Downs with alarming levels of methane and other gases and people getting sick."
Today's announcement by AGL that it is suspending its planned expansion at Camden, west of Sydney should now be followed by a decision by the O'Farrell government to suspend all coal seam gas operations around the state until the New South Wales community has been fully consulted about this controversial industry's future.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, congratulated the Scenic Hills Association and its spokesperson Jacqui Kirkby whose strong advocacy over the last few years has raised public awareness of the Camden situation but warned that pressure would need to be maintained on AGL to ensure this was not merely a public relations manoeuvre by the company.
Mr Hutton, whose organisation has led the massive, statewide community protests against irresponsible coal and coal seam gas mining, is calling on the O'Farrell government to immediately announce a moratorium on coal seam gas and to introduce a comprehensive reform agenda that will protect the state's water catchment and underground water, closely settled areas, good farm land and important environmental areas from mining.Read more
Lock the Gate Alliance President Drew Hutton has been arrested at the Doubtful Creek community blockade against coal seam gas, near Kyogle in the Northern Rivers.
In a show of peaceful solidarity with the people of the Northern Rivers, Hutton sat in the middle of the road in front of the Doubtful Creek site where Metgasco intend to drill.
The community of the Northern Rivers has been protesting against exploratory drilling by Metgasco for two months during which time close to 40 people have been arrested at two different drilling sites.
Drew Hutton is the fourth arrest of the day - earlier this morning one of the 'Knitting Nannas' was arrested whilst knitting in a tripod perched high above the road whilst another woman was extracted from a tunnel beneath the road.Read more