We should be sceptical of Barry O’Farrell’s latest promise to establish CSG mining exclusion zones near cities given his government’s track record.
He promised before the last election that there would be no mining in water catchment areas – “no ifs, no buts - a guarantee”. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clREzzqsKJo&NR=1&feature=endscreen)
But last Wednesday, the Planning and Environment Commission (PAC) – a body purported to consider public input - ratified the NSW Government’s decision to approve Coal Seam Gas drilling in the Illawarra.
The decision, besides breaking his promise and being against majority community opinion, came from a flawed process.
PAC commissioner Bob McCotter’s business currently works for Rio Tinto, Boral, Xstrata, Vale, Yancoal, Cobbora Coal, Cockatoo Coal, AGL, Port Waratah Coal Services and Port Kembla Coal Terminal. (see http://emgamm.com/our-clients/)
In a proper process, people who receive payment from mining and gas customers to prepare Environmental Impact Statements for their projects should not be the same people who make judgments about these projects on our behalf - in the same way that judges are not allowed to be barristers.
The PAC meeting was on a working weekday – excluding anyone who had to work. Recording of the PAC proceedings was banned – denying anyone who didn’t attend the opportunity to hear the arguments.
At this meeting, as usual, well informed arguments about the problems were brushed over.
The government has CHOSEN to remain ignorant of pertinent information such as the level of fugitive methane emissions.
The government’s risk management strategy is for the public (especially the future public) to bear the risks and for a network of interlinked companies (perhaps including retired MPs on their boards) to reap the profits. Companies which will be long gone if and when the problems get serious.
Similar flawed decisions are happening continuously under federal and state governments. And the result is that our country is being degraded.
Perhaps Mr O’Farrell thinks the voters are comfortable trashing land and water resources provided they are more than 1km away. But food security is vital and there is money and employment to be made as “the food bowl of Asia” and as a clean tourist destination.
Rowan Huxtable is an environmental activist and a leader in the founding of the Wollongong Climate Action Network.