Sue Stock, Nimbin
I am delighted that Justine Elliot has come out in support of a moratorium on coal-seam gas mining in NSW. Justine said that she calls on the National Party state MPs to tell the O’Farrell government that our community demands a moratorium on CSG. I agree we definitely need a moratorium on all CSG activities until it can be proven safe.
However the ball is not entirely in the NSW state government’s court. She said in your article, ‘the state government regulates and licenses coal-seam gas mining and they can stop it dead’.
But the Commonwealth has powers too. The Greens are calling for a moratorium on CSG extraction also and promise to introduce a trigger under the Commonwealth powers through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA) to assess impacts on agricultural land and groundwater as well as fugitive emissions. Would Justine Elliot and the federal ALP also support this? That is the crucial question.
Thanks for your letter Ms Stock. It is right on the mark, although I would add we do not need coal seam gas at all, even if hypothetically proven safe, when there are clear non fossil fuel alternatives for energy such as solar thermal, wind and micro hydro.
Can I emphasise that the Commonwealth Government is far from “limited” in its power to legislate on CSG mining and its effects.
It has a number of heads of power under the Australian constitution, and could, if it showed real political will, act to limit the effects of mining and protect landowners and the environment. It could in fact stop the rampant takeover of the people’s resources by (mostly) foreign mining corporations.
These heads of power are as follows:
‘the interstate trade and commerce power’: s51(i) Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States:
‘the corporations power’: s51(xx) Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth
‘the external affairs power’: s51(xxix) External Affairs:
The numerous treaties, covenants and agreements that the Commonwealth has signed to protect water, wetlands, as well as reduce emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change, would allow the Commonwealth government to rule out CSG mining, if it so chose.
Instead, the Federal government has driven the CSG takeover, through its Federal Energy Policy, enshrined in the Energy White Paper which reads like a fossil fuel industry written document.
This has been particularly driven by Minister for Fossil Fools, Martin Ferguson, who in 9 months time might be working for a fossil fuel company rather than the people of Australia.
The Commonwealth government must act upon the precautionary principle and step in to end this unsafe, toxic and dead end industry.
It is not a question of whether it can. It is a question of will.