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June 18, 2021

Labor to expand ‘water trigger’ to protect environment

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Page candidate Janelle Saffin with shadow environment minister Mark Butler. (supplied)
Page candidate Janelle Saffin with shadow environment minister Mark Butler. (supplied)

Anti-gas activists have welcomed a commitment by Page candidate Janelle Saffin to expand the ‘water trigger’ to shale and tight formation gas projects.

When in government, Labor added a water trigger to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act to cover CSG and large coal mining developments.

This ensures that if these projects impact water resources, then they are rigorously assessed under the EPBC Act.

Ms Saffin, along with shadow environment minister Mark Butler, yesterday announced that the water trigger would be extended.

Labor’s policy will extend the protection provided by the Water Trigger to ensure that any shale or tight formation gas developments that impact water resources will also be subject to a full assessment under the EPBC Act and approval from the Minister for Environment; including an assessment by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

MS Saffin said through this process projects wouldbe required to put in place systems to protect the environment if required.

‘Labor wholeheartedly believes it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to protect Australia’s most precious environmental assets.

‘Malcolm Turnbull on the other, hand has such little regard for Australia’s environmental values he’s throwing away this responsibility through his policy to delegate matters of national environmental significance to State and local governments.

‘Labor will ensure the gas industry operates to the highest environmental standards and will ensure full assessment and management of environmental and other impacts, including on water reserves and co-existence with other agricultural activities.

‘Labor is the only Party that will take action to ensure new shale and tight formation gas projects are environmentally safe and sustainable with rigorous science-based assessments.

‘That is the only way we can manage environmental impacts and ensure sustainable local economic development.’

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers regional coordinator Elly Bird said it was a common sense commitment by the ALP.

‘The communities of the northern rivers stand side by side with all communities across the country who are threatened by gasfields and it’s important the water trigger is expanded in this way to cover all forms of unconventional gas mining.

‘The Federal Coalition Government should match the promise and provide assurances that they will drop their ill-conceived plans to hand the water trigger back to the states.

‘Before the last election Kevin Hogan promised us he would cross the floor on CSG but was completely missing in action when he voted with his party to hand the water trigger back to the states.

‘It’s not acceptable to regional Australia for crucial matters like these to be partisan, and this important promise to close an accidental loophole in the EPBC water trigger and keep it in Federal hands must be immediately matched by Water Minister Barnaby Joyce.

‘If Kevin Hogan wants to keep his seat he should be working hard to make that happen.

‘The extension of the water trigger to other forms of unconventional gas also needs to be accompanied by strong no-go zones to protect nationally important water sources and increased powers for the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

‘We urge the Labor Party, and all other parties, to go further and make commitments over the next six weeks to no-go zones, we’d like to see them back NSW state Labor policies on unconventional gas that protect the Northern Rivers and put in place a moratorium across the state.’

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