It can be difficult to keep tabs on what’s happening with coal seam gas (CSG) locally and across the country – with changes in legislation and policy being developed on-the-run in many cases – often in response to pressure from both the gas industry and from protestors. There are also other factors at play too, not directly linked to CSG, but which could have a huge bearing on how the industry progresses.
We’ve attempted to summarise some of the important factors here, as the situation stands in January 2014…
The CSG industry is trying to set up shop across AustraliaState and federal governments continue to back CSG development and export, while the Condamine River bubbles and communities where gas fields have sprung up (like Tara in rural Queensland) suffer ill health. The NSW Pilliga forest is under siege. Huge plants are being built to turn gas into liquid (LNG) to ship it overseas, and parts of the Great Barrier Reef are being dredged to create LNG shipping channels.
Standing between a government-backed industry and our land and water are communities standing together and locking the gate.
The situation in the Illawarra
Locally, a huge community-wide effort to stop CSG and protect our drinking water catchment achieved two big changes for CSG development in the Illawarra in 2013; the previously approved CSG project was rejected and the NSW government introduced a temporary moratorium (a freeze) on CSG development in drinking water catchment Special Areas. Right now, in early 2014, this means CSG drilling can’t go ahead here.
A proposal to permanently ban CSG in Special Areas of the Sydney drinking water catchment was tabled in the NSW parliament by the opposition in October 2013. The bills are due to be debated in early 2014.
But this is far from the end of the story. The moratorium is only in place until the NSW Chief Scientist’s report on CSG is complete (expected later this year) and we still have no legislative changes that ensure the long term protection of our drinking water catchments. Not only do CSG exploration licences still blanket the Ilawarra – licences that come with an obligation to drill – but state and federal governments want to make some big changes…
NSW Planning Bills
The NSW government drafted new planning rules in 2013. The current draft allows the planning minister to approve development, including for CSG, that breaches environment, heritage and local planning rules. It does not include anti-corruption controls, and developers will continue to choose and pay for their own certifiers. The bill will be debated in February or March 2014. You can find out more about the issues with the new planning rules from the Better Planning Network.
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Negotiated in secret, the Australian government is participating in drafting a new international trade agreement. It could allow foreign companies to sue the government if it brings in regulations that limit profits. Under the TPP, a CSG company could sue the government if it introduced health or environmental protections that impact their investment. The Australian government currently says it will pursue a deal that “eliminates or… reduces barriers to trade and investment” and a leaked draft of the environment chapter of the agreement is truly worrying. See more information and a petition from Choice.
We can’t afford to sit back and let coal seam gas roll out across Australia…
Get involved with Stop CSG Illawarra and act to…
- Stop a trade agreement that limits much needed health and environmental protections.
- Stop planning laws that drive development for profit, rather than meeting the needs of communities.
- Win a permanent ban on CSG development in drinking water catchments and beyond.