The Western Downs Alliance has started legal proceedings to challenge federal environment minister Greg Hunt's approval of 6100 coal seam gas wells in Queensland.
The Santos GLNG Gas Field Development Expansion covers almost 1 million hectares of land, from Roma east to Taroom and Wandoan, and north towards Rolleston.
The Alliance, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, has lodged a case in the Federal Court challenging the approval under national environmental law. They argue the minister's approval was unlawful because he ignored plans by Santos to discharge large volumes of CSG waste water into the Dawson River.
Western Downs Alliance spokesperson Sarah Moles said: “The Santos plan for 6100 new CSG wells in Queensland is a recipe for disaster for the Great Artesian Basin and for landholders who depend on it.
“The Environmental Impact Statement for the project predicts that it will impact on 73 water bores used by landholders in the area, and will extract 219 billion litres of water over the life of the project and produce 22 billion litres of salty brine as waste.
“Minister Hunt assessed and approved this development under the Water Trigger that was put into the national environmental law in June 2013 specifically to protect our water resources from large coal and CSG development.
“However, in this case it appears from the documents that Minister Hunt didn't assess the impact of the inevitable release of large volumes of waste water from the CSG project into the Dawson River.”
The Independent Expert Scientific Committee said there is considerable scientific uncertainty about how CSG mining may affect surface and groundwater. The committee specifically pointed to potential impacts, such as reduced water supply to important springs of the Great Artesian Basin; cumulative impacts on groundwater pressures; impacts from wastewater discharge into the Dawson River; and changes to groundwater and surface water quality.
Moles said: “The people of Queensland are sick and tired of CSG companies riding roughshod over farmers and communities, and putting long-term water supplies and food production under threat.
“We're determined to test whether this approval was given lawfully, and to act in the interests of landholders and water resources in our region.
“The next step in our case is crucial. We have asked the minister to provide all the documents he relied upon to make his decision to approve the project.”
Santos GLNG gas transportation pipeline under construction.