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Plibersek approves Gina Rinehart-backed koala-killing fossil gas project

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has approved a Gina Rinehart-backed coal seam gas project in inland Queensland that will clear endangered koala habitat.

Minister Plibersek approved the Stage 3 of Senex’s Atlas project yesterday. The project’s environmental impact statement shows it would clear 530 hectares of “koala dispersal habitat”. The final approval disguises the amount of habitat clearing, describing the clearing as “four ha of trees, measured in canopy cover within mapped Koala dispersal habitat.” 

An associated high pressure gas pipeline, which received federal environmental approval earlier this month, will also clear 35 hectares of koala habitat, 30 hectares of greater glider habitat, 28 hectares of glossy black cockatoo habitat, and nearly five hectares of Dulacca woodland snail habitat. 

Senex’s stage 3 Atlas project will involve the construction of up to 151 coal seam gas wells, as well as access roads, associated pipelines and a 300 million litre CSG brine storage facility north west of Miles, a town which has suffered as a result of the boom and bust cycle of unconventional gas development. 

The project is expected to require the drainage of about six and a half million litres of groundwater each day as the coal seams are depressurised. This depressurisation of coal seams across Queensland’s Western Downs is causing some of the country’s best farmland to sink

Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Ellen Roberts said, “Minister Plibersek is happy to pose for photos with cute and cuddly koalas one day and then approve the clearing of hundreds of hectares of koala habitat for new Gina Rinehart-backed coal seam gas developments the next.

“Koalas face death by a thousand cuts and despite her assurances that there would be no new extinctions under her watch, Tanya Plibersek is yet to fix Australia’s broken environment laws and prevent further loss of koala habitat and ensure that the impacts of climate change on them are not ignored for a project like this. 

“The expansion of the coal seam gas industry in Queensland is irreversibly damaging the state’s best farmland. Water has been contaminated, water bores drained, and cropping country is sinking.

“Queensland communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change, yet our governments continue to approve polluting fossil gas projects that are sending the climate crisis into overdrive. 

“The vast majority of Queensland’s gas is exported overseas, and the biggest domestic user of gas in Queensland is the gas industry itself. There would be no need for this project if Australian and Queensland governments were managing existing gasfields in the national interest. 

“Generating energy for industry must not come at the cost of the state’s best farmland, its water resources, and unique ecosystems.”



Minister Plibersek’s approval of the Atlas Stage 3 project comes shortly after more than 50 community groups wrote to her, demanding that she prioritise koala habitat over fossil fuel development.

According to the State Government’s most recent publicly available figures, at least 16,499 coal seam gas wells have been drilled in Queensland, and granted petroleum leases cover at least 3.5 million hectares of the state. 

Since its rapid expansion began in the mid 2000s, the industry has impacted hundreds of water bores used for farming and caused large areas of productive farmland to sink as the extraction of water and gas from the coal seams creates subsidence.

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