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April 2, 2013

John Williams' review of the science on coal seam gas ---An analysis of coal seam gas production and natural resource management in Australia: Issues and ways forward--- says that coal seam gas is just another another land use that needs to be regulated like the others; and that environmental risks (especially groundwater) are serious.

CamapbellPCSG.jpg Pat Campbell

John Williams and colleagues conclude with the right question:

Do we want degraded and collapsing landscapes? If the answer is “Yes” then we appear to be well on the way. If the answer is “No” then we need to seriously reconsider and re-think how we make decisions about how we use our landscapes.

The approach they recommend is to work out what the landscape can sustain: how much degradation can the landscape incur before it starts to lose function?

The states it seems are not interested. Coal seam gas extraction in Australia is poorly and inconsistently regulated. The state's development approval process does not address the concern of farmers who've seen rivers bubble with methane, their bore water polluted with chemicals, while the reserves of ground water on their property have dropped alarmingly. Queensland, for instance, is primarily interested in fast tracking approval for coal seam gas development in that certain Queensland coal seam gas projects were rushed through without proper governmental oversight.

It's the usual story of commercial considerations being put ahead of the environment, which is what we saw with irrigated agriculture development in the 20th century. There is a need water water to be added as a new matter of national environmental significance.If a coal seam gas project puts water resources at risk it should be referred to the Federal Government for review under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. A specific water trigger will mean that most coal seam gas projects become amenable to Federal Government evaluation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:51 AM | | Comments (1)


The only question I have, is why an appropriate regulatory regime wasn't in place in the first place.
Australia seems a little Koch Brothers/ red state society, a terrific example of engineered consent, backed by sly legislation as to information access exacerbated by dwindling resources available for science and scientific monitoring.