MP says amendments to protect groundwater

PAGE MP Kevin Hogan says he has strengthened laws protecting groundwater from coal seam gas drilling with two amendments added to Federal legislation last night.

The legislation makes changes to the former Labor Government's "water trigger" bill, which required all gas drilling operations in Australia to prove they would not harm the water table before being approved by the Federal Environment Minister.

The new legislation transfers authority for the "water trigger" bill from the Federal Government to the state.

By peeling back the need for both tiers of approval, the coalition government hopes to "simplify" the approvals process for business by getting rid of duplication and creating faster decisions.

Mr Hogan said his two amendments would strengthen the national environmental law and help protect Australia's water resources.

The first amendment would mean all state governments and territories would have to seek independent scientific advice when assessing projects for the water trigger.

The advice would come from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC).

The second amendment would give the Federal Government power to request advice from the independent committee, including to what extent a state or territory had considered the scientific advice.

The Federal Environmental Minister would be able to overrule the approval if not satisfied with the process.

Mr Hogan said the amendments would make sure the states and territories maintained high environmental standards.

"The first amendment will make it mandatory for states and territories ... to seek and take into account the advice of the IESC," he said.

"The second amendment gives the IESC an additional function and allows the Federal Environment Minister to request its supplementary advice on high risk coal seam gas and large coal mining developments."

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