Life on the land in Australia



Energy ministers from across Australia have agreed to draft a plan for dealing with coal seam gas (CSG) development by September 2012.

Concerns have been raised by farmers and conservationists – some of whom want the industry banned – that CSG development is poisoning waterways and taking away productive agricultural land.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, who met with his state and territory counterparts in Melbourne yesterday, said a national framework would improve public confidence in regulation of the industry, while allowing it to expand.

Currently CSG supplies 32 per cent of eastern states’ domestic gas production, while also generating export income.

The CSIRO estimates Australia has more than 250 trillion cubic feet of CSG, enough to power a city of five million people for 1000 years.

The ministers noted in a statement that “there is mounting public concern about the safety and environmental impacts of coal seam gas”.

They said more work was needed to address “genuine community concerns regarding co-existence, management of water systems, chemical use, well integrity, hydraulic fracturing and rehabilitation”.

Over the next nine months a stocktake will be conducted of existing laws and regulations and reporting requirements in all states and territories.

There will also be a study into a best practice approach to CSG extraction.

And experts will look at engineering and design, water use and discharge, the protection of aquifers and the use and reporting of chemicals.

“Coal seam gas has an important role to play in Australia’s energy mix and we must ensure appropriate regulation is in place as the industry expands,” Mr Ferguson said.

The inaugural meeting of the Standing Council on Energy and Resources also discussed the energy market and network regulation.

The ministers announced the Productivity Commission would start work in January on a 15-month probe into electricity network regulation.

They also discussed the imminent launch of a draft Energy White Paper to guide development over the next two decades.

Australian Greens mining spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the plan to create harmonised standards for the coal seam gas industry was a cop-out by the federal government.

“The Greens are concerned that this is an excuse for the federal government to continue to wash its hands of a proper regulatory role in the water impacts of CSG,” Senator Waters said.

“The Greens would welcome consistency across the states in CSG regulation, but it would have to represent an increase in environmental standards.”

The states had a poor track record in protecting the environment and it was appropriate for the federal government to have oversight of mining impacts on water, Senator Waters said.

“It is concerning that there is only one environment minister on SCER (the Standing Council on Energy and Resources), which is otherwise comprised of energy ministers who seem to believe it is their role to promote and not to regulate the CSG industry.

“We are also concerned at the pace of the work program, which wouldn’t see any legislative change until at least 2013.”


Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

December 11th, 2011
Topic: MINING OIL GAS Tags: , , , ,

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