The passing of the so-called water trigger legislation in the Senate yesterday is ‘a great step’ says Lock The Gate’s Ian Gaillard.
The new amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act means the federal government may now step in to overturn coal mining and CSG projects that scientific experts deem would pose a threat to water resources.
‘Given that we haven’t had anything like that, at least it is another overlay of care in the process. It’s all about water and biodiversity and that’s important’, Mr Gaillard told Echonetdaily yesterday.
But he believes the legislation does not go far enough.
‘Air monitoring is essential and no prior studies have been done on that,’ he said.
‘It also doesn’t address shale and tight sands gas. Metgasco wants to mine tight sands at Naughtons Gap and it’s a major concern that’s not included in the water trigger.
‘WA is looking at a boom in shale gas and it has serious problems.’
Coalition would roll back
ALP Page MP Janelle Saffin, who fought within the party for the legislation, agrees that more needs to be done.
‘The water trigger can help us stop any CSG mining going ahead in our area, but we need more action and it has to be at state level,’ she said yesterday.
‘I lobbied hard on behalf of our community to get the federal government to use the full extent of its powers to protect our water. The battle is however far from over with the coalition vowing to undo the legislation, if they get an opportunity.
‘To add insult to injury the federal coalition put forward an amendment that we blocked, which was to hand back the water assessment process to the NSW government. This means Minister Hartcher would be in charge and he is the minister who has been fast-tracking the expansion of CSG mining in NSW.
‘The coalition made it clear in the Senate they plan to change everything should they win government.’
Gate left open: Greens
But the Greens have also taken credit for the legislation and taken aim at the ALP for watering it down.
‘Make no mistake, the water trigger would not exist today were it not for the minority Parliament, the government initially laughed at the Greens’ bill for a water trigger 18 months ago,’ Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said.
‘The water trigger [was] only made possible by the Greens working with Tony Windsor to secure federal assessment of the water impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mines, which the community has long been calling for,’ she added.
‘Sadly, the old parties voted down Greens’ amendments… to give landholders the right to say no to coal seam gas, to Abbott-proof national environmental protection and to protect national parks federally.
‘Tony Abbott says repeatedly that he wants to get rid of national environment protection and hand it over to his state cronies, yet Labor voted to keep those parts of law which allow such a delegation.’