FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke has announced changes to environmental law that will mean new coal and coal seam gas projects will require federal approval "if they are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource".
The changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act mean before any projects can proceed to the commercial stage, they must be assessed by the Federal Government's Independent Expert Scientific Committee.
"Up until now, we have only been able to take account of water to the extent there has been an impact on issues such as threatened species or a wetland," Mr Burke said. "Realistically whenever I have made a decision on coal seam gas, the Australian public would expect that we are taking into account all the impacts on our precious water resources. This change gives me, as Australia's Environment Minister, the capacity to do just that."
Page MP Janelle Saffin said the changes to the Act "effectively means that coal seam gas mining could be stopped on the North Coast if it has the potential to adversely impact our precious water resources."
She told The Echo the message to her from the community was clear - CSG mining was "not welcome".
"With this amendment the Australian Labor Government is responding to community concern to ensure the long-term health and viability of Australia's water resources. This amendment means we have to take water into account for these kinds of projects, so I don't see how they will be able to go ahead."
Local Lock The Gate spokesperson Boudicca Ceres described the changes as "an important step on the path to proper controls of CSG and other non-conventional gas mining".
But she said they are still calling for a halt to all exploration until baseline water studies are conducted and that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee only has an "advisory" role, rather than a "decision making" role.
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