Page MP Kevin Hogan says two amendments he successfully added to the government’s new water trigger legislation will ensure it still has impact even after the federal government takes its finger off the proverbial trigger.
The water trigger was initially passed by the outgoing Labor government last year and currently allows the impacts of proposed coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources to be comprehensively assessed at a national level.
The coalition is in the process of devolving federal environmental powers back to the states in a number of areas under its so-called ‘one-stop shop’ policy to ‘reduce green tape’.
But Mr Hogan says his two amendments to the national environment law ‘will ensure the protection of Australia’s water resources from coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.’
The first amendment makes it compulsory for all state governments to seek and consider advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) when assessing projects for the water trigger.
The second amendment ensures the federal government can request advice from the IESC, including the extent that a state government has considered the initial advice from the IESC.
Importantly, Mr Hogan says, the federal environment minister retains the right to ‘call in’ the approval if they are not satisfied with the process.
Ahead of moving the amendments Mr Hogan said he met with federal environment minister Greg Hunt’ to discuss the concerns that our community have in relation to coal seam gas development.’
‘I impressed upon him that it is of utmost importance that the community had confidence in the one-stop shop and the approval decisions made by the states and territories for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects,’ Mr Hogan said.
‘The first amendment will make it mandatory for states and territories making approval decisions under bilateral agreements to seek and take into account the advice of the IESC.
‘The second amendment gives the IESC an additional function and allows the federal environment minister to request its supplementary advice on high risk coal seam gas and large coal mining developments assessed under the one stop shop.’
‘This could include advice on the extent to which the state or territory has assessed the impacts of the development and considered the initial advice of the IESC and will help the commonwealth to monitor the operation of the one stop shop.’
Minister Hunt told parliament that as a result of Mr Hogan’s ‘the states will be subject to more rigorous standards than has ever been the case.’
He added the amendments would ‘bring additional comfort to rural communities.’