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Reform of the EPBC Act Water Trigger

A new expert report exposes how big gas projects are exploiting failings in federal laws designed to protect one of Australia's most precious resources - water.

But the report Reform of the EPBC Act Water Trigger, written by hydrologist Dr Matthew Currell and environmental advocacy Earth & Every, also shows how these laws could be fixed and Australia’s water protected if a few logical steps are taken.

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One of the big issues identified is that the independent scientists (the IESC), who are tasked with providing advice to the government on big gas projects, don’t have the tools they need to make truly informed and independent recommendations.

The authors argue the Federal Government needs to empower the IESC so it can obtain independent information, instead of relying on gas company-supplied data, and that the scientists should be given the opportunity to twice review a company’s proposal - when it is first submitted, and again after the company has responded to feedback.

The report also highlights that at the moment, the deep cultural connections Traditional Owners have with water sites are not properly considered when gas projects are being assessed. The authors say these cultural considerations should be included in the assessment process.

As well, the report includes several case studies of coal seam gas projects in Queensland and NSW, and shows how the ability for the Environment Minister to ignore or overlook advice provided by the scientific committee harms Australia’s water.

One of the case studies explains how, when the government was assessing Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project, the IESC found Santos failed to provide sufficient information concerning risks to underground water tables and groundwater dependent ecosystems.

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