Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor has introduced a private members’ bill to give the Commonwealth more power to intervene in the approval of Coal Seam Gas projects.
Mr Windsor says his bill aims to strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and give the Minister for Environment more oversight into mining projects that could impact on water quality.
“In certain cases, theoretically at least, the Commonwealth Minister could prevent an activity from going ahead if he believed there was a high risk of damage to those groundwater systems,” Mr Windsor says.
“It doesn’t interfere with the state in every development. It would only be triggered when there were concerns about the effect of some of these extractive activities on water,
both surface and groundwater.”
Mr Windsor claims existing state approval processes aren’t adequately equipped to consider the full impact of Coal Seam Gas projects.
“Most people are aware that the existing process isn’t appropriate,” he says. “It doesn’t take into account any of the potential cumulative impacts of some of these extractive industries on each other and on the landscape.”
Farmers and environmentalists campaigning against the expansion of the Coal Seam Gas industry in NSW have welcomed Mr Windsor’s bill.