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Saffin takes stand on CSG: Metgasco has 'no social license'

Theo Jongen showed his support at the protest against coal seam gas held outside a property on Avenue Road near Glenugie. Photo: JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Theo Jongen showed his support at the protest against coal seam gas held outside a property on Avenue Road near Glenugie. Photo: JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner

METGASCO does not have a "social licence" to mine for coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, Page MP Janelle Saffin told the Parliament on Monday night.

In a speech to the House of Representatives Ms Saffin said CSG was a "vexed issue" in her electorate.

The remarks came less than a week after Ms Saffin accused Resources Minister Martin Ferguson of "jumping on a bandwagon" after he criticised Southern Cross University research showing high methane levels in CSG fields near Tara, Queensland.

Ms Saffin went on to urge Mr Ferguson to "keep your nose out of our business". Mr Ferguson declined to comment on the matter.

In her speech on Monday Ms Saffin claimed the State Government's regional land use policy announced earlier this year had paved the way for Metgasco, and companies like it, to expand its operations.

"Overwhelmingly the community is saying no," Ms Saffin said.

"State Government legislation says yes and ... Metgasco says this gives them a social licence because they have the approval of the State Government.

"But they do not have a community acceptance and therefore they do not have a social licence."

Ms Saffin said the key issue related to the effects of CSG operations on water, referring extensively to the National Water Commission's position statement on the issue.

She repeated earlier calls for an effective moratorium on CSG mining in certain areas to allow the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on CSG and Large Coal Mining Developments to do its work.

The committee has been charged with assessing the potential impact of these activities on water.

"Until we know the result of that process my view is there should be no coal seam gas mining activity at all on the land," Ms Saffin said.

The committee was formed as part of a National Partnership Agreement between the Federal Government and the states.

Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria have all signed this agreement, which requires the Commonwealth and the states to "take the committee's advice into account in their assessment and approvals decisions". The committee's advice is not binding.

Legislation establishing the committee passed the federal parliament in October with bipartisan support, although an interim committee was already providing scientific advice on key projects.

Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the make-up of the scientific panel on Tuesday.

The eight-member committee will be chaired by Lisa Corbyn, a former CEO of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and director general of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

The committee, which was selected by Mr Burke following consultation with Cabinet colleagues and the states, comprises experts in the fields of hydrogeology, hydrology, ecology, geology, ecotoxicology and natural resource management. (Go online to see the full bios of the committee)

"Many community groups and individuals have raised concern about the potential impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining activities on water resources," Mr Burke said.

"The work of this committee will give communities reason to be confident that future decisions about coal seam gas and large coal mining development are informed by the best possible science."

"The committee will advise me on research priorities that address critical gaps in scientific understanding of the actual and potential water related impacts associated with coal seam gas and large coal mining activities, and scope what research is needed to reduce these knowledge gaps."

THE EXPERT PANEL

Lisa Corbyn (Chair)

Ms Corbyn recently retired from the NSW public sector where she held senior executive positions as CEO of the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, and Director General of the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority and Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. Ms Corbyn holds a Masters in Public Administration - Natural Resource Management from the University of Washington in the USA, and undertook a fellowship at Princeton University focusing on Environmental Economics. Ms Corbyn's notable leadership positions and wide experience in natural resource and water management, sustainability and in the management and regulation of environmental impacts will mean that the committee is well served.

Professor Craig Simmons

Professor Simmons is a Professor of Hydrogeology at Flinders University and Director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training. He is a leading international authority in hydrogeology and is considered one of Australia's foremost groundwater academics. Professor Simmons has been a significant contributor to global advances in the science of hydrogeology for many years. He has a great understanding and experience of the practical considerations for governments, communities and industries around the management of our critical groundwater resources which will be an invaluable asset to the committee.

Emeritus Professor Angela Arthington

Professor Arthington is a leading authority on the ecology of Australian rivers, including the ecology of endangered and alien species. As an aquatic ecologist at the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University, she will bring strong skills and experience to the committee on methods and management of environmental water flows to sustain river ecosystems.

Jane Coram

Ms Coram is a groundwater expert at Geoscience Australia who has been actively involved in the development of multidisciplinary, regional assessments of the role of groundwater processes in groundwater-surface water dynamics, dryland salinity and groundwater sustainability. Ms Coram's experience in the integrated use of hydrogeological, hydrochemical and remotely sensed information to understand groundwater dynamics in relation to near-surface, ecological systems and deeper aquifer systems is of direct relevance to the work of the committee. Her substantial technical work on Commonwealth, state and regional groundwater issues will assist the committee in providing robust advice to governments.

Dr Andrew Johnson

Dr Andrew Johnson is a natural resource scientist and a senior CSIRO executive with responsibilities for leading the organisation's water, land, climate, marine, biodiversity, urban sustainability and regional development research. He is a member of the Prime Minister's Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce, a Member of the Australian Government's High Level Coordinating Group on Climate Change Science and is Chair of the Northern Ministerial Forum Expert Advisory Council. A former Rotary Foundation scholar to the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he will bring strong skills to the committee in environmental science and over 20 years experience in sustainable land and water management in Australia, South East Asia and North America.

Jim McDonald

Mr McDonald has extensive experience in natural resource management and has served in senior board positions, most relevantly and recently as the former Chair of the Namoi Catchment Management Authority and member of the Namoi Groundwater Ministerial Taskforce and the New South Wales Groundwater Adjustment Advisory Committee. The depth and breadth of his experience in rural land management and land and water integration planning will be important for the committee's work, particularly for advising on bioregional assessments.

Professor Dayanthi Nugegoda

Professor Nugegoda is an expert in environmental toxicology and ecosystem health. She leads the Ecotoxicology and Environmental Biology research team at RMIT University in Melbourne, is a research leader at the Victorian Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management and is the current President of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia. Her research focuses on aquatic health, including the monitoring of environmental pollution, the effect of salinity on freshwater ecosystems and the quality of reclaimed and recycled water. Professor Nugegoda will therefore play a key role on the committee in advising on the effects of environmental pollutants and how best to monitor possible environmental contamination.

Emeritus Professor Peter Flood

Professor Flood is a geologist with 44 years experience in Basin Studies, including within the highly relevant Gunnedah, Bowen and Surat Basins where he has studied the impacts of mining and coal seam gas extraction on water resources. He is the retired Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research at the University of New England with an outstanding academic career. As a recognised expert in the field, Professor Flood brings a substantial understanding of the oil and gas industry to the work of the committee. He is a great communicator and educator has consulted across state and Commonwealth governments and the mining industry.

Topics:  csg janelle saffin



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