Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Federal environmental approval for coal seam gas and Gladstone projects

Media release
22 October 2010

Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, has approved, with strict environmental conditions, two coal seam gas projects at Gladstone, and the dredging of Gladstone Port's western basin.

"After rigorous assessments that included public consultation and the advice of experts, I consider that these projects can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environment law," Mr Burke said.

"While there are significant economic benefits to these projects, which must be a consideration in my decision, my focus has been on protecting environmental matters such as protected species and ecological communities.

"I also considered potential impacts on agricultural land and the Great Artesian Basin, among other economic and social matters.

"I have imposed more than 300 strict conditions each on the Santos and Queensland Gas Company coal seam gas projects to help protect groundwater -dependent species and minimise other environmental impacts.

"I have received expert advice from my Department and Geoscience Australia on the groundwater issues related to coal seam gas activity.

"The companies must carry out detailed planning and monitoring to protect groundwater resources, and submit management plans for aquifers, groundwater and surface water for approval.

"Water pressure must be maintained above conservative thresholds. If those thresholds are exceeded, the companies must have plans ready to re-establish pressure.

"This may involve reinjection or other suitable methods of replacing groundwater to restore water pressure.

"Pilots for aquifer reinjection must be carried out and suitable water treatmenet programs must be in place to ensure that any water to be reinjected is of suitable quality.

"The companies will have to rehabilitate a significant area of land and conserve other areas in perpetuity.

"They will also be required to cooperate with other coal seam gas proponents and the Queensland Water Commission in the development of a regional model for the ongoing assessment of the impacts of this new industry on groundwater-related matters."

"The conditions also contain detailed protection measures for National and World Heritage values.

"These include minimising light and noise, reduced vessel speeds, limits on vessel movements, quarantine measures to control weeds and feral animals and marine mammal watchers.

"To offset the impacts of the industrial sites on Curtis Island, the companies must secure an area five times the size of their project sites, to be added to the National park estate or protected in perpetuity.

Under the dredging approval, Gladstone Ports Corporation will have to comply with more than 50 strict environmental conditions for its western basin dredging project.

"The conditions I've imposed on the dredging project will help to minimise any impact on the world and national heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as nationally threatened and migratory species, including dugongs, turtles and dolphins," Mr Burke said.

"Gladstone Ports Corporation will fund a $7 million regional ecosystem research and monitoring program, which will include funding for marine mammal, turtle and migratory shorebirds research.

"In addition, the company will invest $5 million in activities aimed at threatened and migratory species protection, habitat improvement and restoration.

"Gladstone Ports Corporation must also develop and implement rigorous management plans to monitor water quality and adaptively manage the impacts of dredging."

For further information on these approvals, go to www.environment.gov.au/epbc