Environment Minister Tony Burke
Environment Minister Tony Burke Karleila Thomsen

New water resource criteria for CSG, mining assessments

WATER resources will be included among the environmental conditions large coal mining and coal seam gas projects must address, Environment Minister Tony Burke said on Tuesday.

Mr Burke announced that groundwater and surface water would now be included among the Matters of National Environmental Significance for such projects.

The announcement came after growing pressure within the Labor caucus to make the changes, led by New South Wales north coast MPs Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot, as well as Laurie Ferguson.

It also comes after a Greens bill, introduced by Senator Larissa Waters, failed to garner Labor's support after 18 months in the Senate.

Mr Burke said the influence of both Ms Saffin and Ms Elliot, who sacrificed a parliamentary secretary role over her beliefs, were imperative to making the change happen.

Mr Burke said independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott were also instrumental in lobbying for the change in parliament, after the pair made significant in-roads in the creation of the independent Expert Scientific

Committee as part of the agreement to form government in 2010.

While Mr Burke said the new criteria would be included for any future CSG or large coal mining assessments, existing approved projects, such as the three major projects in Queensland, would not be subject to the new conditions.

He said any applications for such developments which had not yet been assessed by the IESC, would now be subject to water conditions.

Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott, fellow independent Bob Katter and Greens Senator Larissa Waters all welcomed Mr Burke's announcement, but most still had several concerns about other issues regarding the CSG industry and large coal mines.

Both Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott said the new laws were a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done to ensure the scientific basis for the environmental effects of new developments was sound before approvals.

Senator Waters said she was pleased with the result, but said it was convenient that Mr Burke has already approved some of the largest CSG projects in Australia, projects which would not be subject to the new criteria.

It is understood the new laws will be introduced in parliament within the next fortnight.

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