Pressure to fast-track mines builds for incoming government

PRESSURE is building on new Federal Environment Minister-elect Greg Hunt to approve three major Queensland projects which are due for a decision within weeks.

The projects - Arrow Energy's LNG plant on Curtis Island, GVK-Hancock Coal's Alpha mine project and an expansion at Abbot Point port near Bowen - are awaiting approval in Canberra.

After being named as Environment Minister-elect on Monday, Mr Hunt will hold the future of billions of dollars in investment in Queensland in his hands.

Premier Campbell Newman last week told Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott he wanted the Commonwealth "out of the way" of the approvals process.

One of Mr Hunt's key promises - to move the approvals process from the Federal Government to the states - is sure to anger environmentalists.

Mr Hunt told APN Newsdesk earlier this year the change would not involve new legislation, avoiding the need for approval through a potentially-hostile Senate.

Instead, it would take advantage of existing clauses to allow approval powers to be given to the states.

Labor abandoned a similar handover last year after it was revealed the state failed to take into account the potential downstream effects of a proposed mine on the Great Barrier Reef.

The projects, which are in various stages of assessment by the Federal Environment Department, are only a few of the 18 listed awaiting federal approvals.

Environmental groups are concerned over the potential effects on groundwater in central-western Queensland and possible impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters - a vocal opponent of the projects - called on Mr Hunt not to bow to pressure to approve the projects.

"The already under-resourced Federal Environment Department needs the time, adequate staffing levels and the support to do its job, not ministerial and business pressure to fast-track scrutiny, and not the threat of Tony Abbott's public service cuts hanging over its head," she said.

AWAITING DECISIONS:

Port of Abbot Point: terminal expansion

GVK-Hancock Coal: Alpha Coal Mine

Arrow Energy: Curtis Island LNG


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