The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for the Environment
50 'water trigger' referrals left in limbo finally processed
26 September 2013
I have considered the application of the water trigger to 50 large coal mine and coal seam gas developments currently being assessed under national environment law.
The Abbott Government is not afraid to get on with the job of making decisions to provide certainty for Australian industry and maintain our environmental standards.
The projects left in limbo by the previous Labor Government were procedural decisions to decide whether or not to refer a project under the new 'water trigger' legislation.
After a careful examination, I have determined that 47 of the 50 transitional projects will require federal environmental assessment of their impacts on water resources.
It was quite astonishing to think the previous Labor Government in its dying days would grind industry to a halt by introducing this legislation only to leave them in limbo for months for someone else to make the decision.
The assessment of each of these projects will include the project's potential impacts on water resources in addition to the other matters protected under national environment law for which they were already being assessed.
Once the assessment process is complete I will carefully consider each assessment, the advice of my department, and all public comments received before deciding whether these proposals can go ahead.
For the three other projects, I have determined that the water trigger will not apply to one project, while I am seeking further information on two others.
One of the projects on which I am seeking further information is the proposed Mt Penny Coal Mine in NSW. Given the recent findings by ICAC, particularly in relation to the Directors of Cascade Coal, who are also Directors of Mt Penny Coal Ltd, I have written to the NSW Attorney-General to seek his advice on whether the legal status of the proponent has implications for the validity of the assessment under the EPBC Act.
In addition, I have also sought information from the NSW Attorney-General on the environmental record of the proponent as is my legal right.
I have invited all proponents to comment on my decisions.
We are not afraid to get on with the job and make decisions in a considered, methodical way while protecting the environment.