Coulton’s Catch-up 12th December
The Senate Committee for Rural Affairs & Transport recently released its anticipated interim report on the Impact of Coal Seam Gas Extraction on the Murray-Darling Basin. The report considers the potential impact of the Coal Seam Gas industry on Basin groundwater resources, agricultural land and regional communities and has handed down 24 recommendations to deal with the rapidly expanding industry.
The Nationals team were instrumental in establishing the Senate inquiry into coal seam gas earlier this year. The inquiry held hearings in Roma, Dalby and Narrabri and received over 300 written submissions. This report concentrates on CSG developments within the Murray-Darling Basin which are the focus of industry and public concern, in particular, the security of the gas wells. The main regions of concern to this Committee are in south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales.
Based on the findings from the inquiry, the Committee has called for a halt to the approval for all future coal seam gas (CSG) projects until further research is carried out. It recommends projects should not be considered until studies of the Basin water resources being conducted by the CSIRO & Geoscience Australia, the Queensland Government and the Namoi Catchment Study are completed and their findings reviewed.
Of particular concern to the Committee is the brine and salt residues – which equates to more than 700,000 tonnes of salt being produced every year. It recommends that salt and brine be removed from agricultural regions and water catchments. If salt and brine residues cannot be disposed within the short term, then it should be removed from agricultural areas and water catchments and controlled landfills for the disposal of salt should not be permitted in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The Federal Nationals Parliamentary Team will continue to review the Senate Committee’s recommendations. The findings in the report provide a solid base for decisive and prompt action on this issue. The report highlights that the process up until this point has been less than adequate and that legislation has not kept up with the progression of this industry.
I recognise that coal seam gas poses both opportunities and risks. It has a huge potential to revitalise parts of regional Australia. However, if managed poorly, coal seam gas could become an environmental and social disaster. We should not accept mere compensation for landowners and communities, but insist on a guaranteed revenue stream and a fair share for the regions. We have released a blueprint based on five core principals to address the issue of Coal Seam Gas and will shortly launch a discussion paper on specific policy options to achieve these core principals.