Monday, December 3, 2012

Slashing of 'green tape' put at risk as activist bodies unite



ENVIRONMENT EDITOR From:The Australian December 03, 2012 12:00AM

ENVIRONMENT groups have formed a "council of war" to combat business and state government demands to cut "green tape" they fear will weaken protection and lead to a US-style wave of litigation.

A standoff has developed between federal En

vironment Minister Tony Burke and state governments over who should have the final say on whether a project meets commonwealth obligations.

A series of decisions involving Woodside's James Price Point gas hub in Western Australia and Rio Tinto's South of Embley bauxite mine in Cape York has brought the issue to a head.

The Business Council of Australia has driven the "green tape" reform agenda, claiming over-regulation is jeopardising $900 billion worth of projects. The council is due to meet on Thursday, before Friday's Council of Australian Governments meeting at which the "green tape" agenda is expected to be set for early next year.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said yesterday that reducing the delays and costs associated with the environmental approvals process was vital to the strength and resilience of Australia's economy.

"It is not about reducing the environmental protections which are important to protect our natural heritage," she said.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the commonwealth should limit its role to matters of biodiversity.

"I think the commonwealth government needs to stay out of environmental assessments and approvals," he said. "I am not saying there aren't issues, and sometimes things go wrong, but this overlay of commonwealth law on top has been the sole reason for this green tape."

But green groups claim the COAG "green tape" reform process has gone too far, with a proposal to remove the federal minister from the approvals process and attempts to weaken the environmental test for developments.

"In our view there is the scope for efficiencies in how environmental assessments are done but the negotiations have become tangled because there is now a push for full environmental approval powers to be delegated to the states," Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry said.

"Assessments are very different to who makes the final decision.

"I think that would be a disaster for the exercise of Australia's national environment laws and I think it would also deliver great uncertainty for business so I think it is a quite a naive push."

State governments are understood to be seeking a full delegation of authority from the commonwealth. This would mean the federal minister would have no say over individual projects and could only act by revoking the delegation to a state after what were considered to be a series of poor decisions.

Wilderness Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders said: "If the BCA's proposal (for approvals) was in operation at the time and the commonwealth government exited from environmental decision making, the Franklin would have been dammed, the Wet Tropics would still be logged, the Great Barrier Reef would be full of oil rigs, Fraser Island would be sand-mined and the Traveston Dam would have been built."

Mr Schneiders said the system could lead to a wave of US-style litigation by environment groups to overturn state decisions.

"If its campaign is successful and Colin Barnett and Campbell Newman become the guardians of our world heritage and national heritage sites, then a new era of litigation to protect these sites from development by environmental groups will be heralded," he said. "We will follow the lead of environment groups in the US and look to the courts to enforce the environmental standards expected by the broader community and to which Australia is committed through a large number of international treaties."

The heads of Australia's biggest environment groups, including ACF, Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, have over the past week discussed strategy to combat what they consider a grave threat to the nation's environmental regulation.

World renowned naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough has signed a letter prepared by the Humane Society International to Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the issue. A gathering of environmental groups is planned for Canberra on Thursday to oppose the government's decision to delegate environmental responsibility to the states.

Green groups were also concerned that proposed amendments to the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act would weaken protections for endangered and threatened species.

They said the term "significant impact" under the act had been broadly defined by the courts as being an "impact that is important, notable or of consequence having regard to its context or intensity".

Proposed amendments would change this to "a proposal that would destroy a breeding population of a listed species such that the species is likely to be listed in a higher category of endangerment".

"This is plainly a narrowing of the test because it requires impact at the population level, rather than just an impact at the local level," Mr Schneiders said.

Mr Burke said discussions were continuing with the states and business community. "The basis for this entire discussion with the states has been that there would be absolutely no lowering of environmental standards," he said.


  1. Dont know about slashing green tape - is there enough of it?

    If cattle are sentinels to our health when it comes to extracting oil and gas from the land,then Jack Burton and his abatoir are our canary down the coal mine in the Kimberley.

    Is fracking making livestock sick?

    Study found ill and dead animals on 24 farms near natural gas drilling sites

    Reduced milk production. Gastrointestinal, neurological and urological issues. Sudden death. These are just a few of the symptoms experienced by livestock living near natural gas fracking sites and catalogued in a recent paper studying the impact of natural gas drilling on human and animal health.

    The peer-reviewed study, conducted by a veterinarian and a researcher from the Department of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University, was published this January in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, and inspired an investigative report published Nov. 28 in The Nation. (Download the full study here.)

    The paper was reportedly the first peer-reviewed study linking fracking with health issues in animals that are intended for human consumption. It examined case histories of 24 farms in six states in which fracking occurs. The farms were not identified in the paper.

    As the authors wrote in the abstract to their paper, "animals can be used as sentinels to monitor impacts to human health" because they "are exposed continually to air, soil, and groundwater and have more frequent reproductive cycles." The authors say their study illustrates how certain aspects of gas drilling operations may lead to health problems for both humans and animals, although they also caution that "complete evidence regarding health impacts of gas drilling cannot be obtained due to incomplete testing and disclosure of chemicals, and nondisclosure agreements." They are calling for more rigorous testing of fracking processes and procedures, calling gas drilling and the toxic chemicals used "an uncontrolled health experiment" that could have further impacts on humans


    The energy industry has attacked the study, calling it "fatally flawed" and "an advocacy piece" that "does not qualify as a scientific paper." Industry commentators criticize the fact that the 24 farms were not disclosed, say the authors have no track record of environmental investigation, and say the peer-review process "was not very stringent"


    Wanna know what’s in that fracking fluid? Tough

    As of last year, Texas has a law that requires fracking companies to reveal the chemicals used in their fracking fluids. Unless that fracking fluid is considered a “trade secret” by the fracking company, which, surprise surprise, companies have claimed 19,000 times in the first eight months of this year.

    From Bloomberg:

    A subsidiary of Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) pumped a mixture of chemicals identified only as “EXP- F0173-11” into a half-dozen oil wells in rural Karnes County, Texas, in July.

    Few people outside Nabors, the largest onshore drilling contractor by revenue, know exactly what’s in that blend. This much is clear: One ingredient, an unidentified solvent, can cause damage to the kidney and liver, according to safety information about the product that Michigan state regulators have on file.

    A year-old Texas law that requires drillers to disclose chemicals they pump underground during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” was powerless to compel transparency for EXP- F0173-11. The solvent and several other ingredients in the product are considered a trade secret by Superior Well Services, the Nabors subsidiary

  2. Dec 3 (LNGJ) - Spanish LNG imports in November were more than 20 percent lower than the same month a year ago, while French monthly imports were down by 7.5 percent, according to latest data. Spain has six operating LNG import terminals and France has three.


    The Indonesian government plans to share in the sale of 32 additional cargoes from the BP-operated Tangguh LNG plant in 2013 and supply domestic customers with 10 cargoes, much less than originally planned under revised offtake agreements at the facility in West Papua.


    LNG Ltd., the developer of the fifth Australian coal-seam-gas-to-LNG project with the backing of PetroChina, said it was granted a 12-month extension in the term of its site lease agreement with the Port of Gladstone.


  3. Yeserday it was Simon Crean building a railway from Kununurra to the NT.Today it is the railway to link iron ore with coal across the Top End.

    AN ambitious rail plan to create a new Australian steel industry by linking coalfields in the east with mines in the west has taken a step forward with a top Japanese consultancy agreeing to help develop a feasibility study.

    The Nomura Research Institute has agreed to participate in the early stages of the multi-billion-dollar Project Iron Boomerang, which also involves the consulting arm of Britain's Tata Steel.


    Colin Barnett should check the tide gauge at Cottesloe,they are in trouble.

    SEA levels on the Perth coastline are rising at three times the global average, the latest State of Australian Cities report shows.

    In a statistic that federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese described as "disturbing'' and "extraordinary'', readings since 1993 have indicated sea levels are rising by between 9mm and 10mm per year.

    The global average is around three millimetres per year.

    With temperatures rising and rainfall falling, environmental changes are having little effect on the numbers of people moving to Perth, with the city population growing by 2.6 per cent since 2001 - making it the fastest growing capital in the country.

    That expanding population was having little impact on transport habits, with almost 80 per cent of people still travelling to work by car and only 12 per cent by public transport.

    Perth also has the lowest proportion of people walking to work of Australia's capitals, with only 2.6 per cent of people leaving their car or bike at home.

    ...Perth people also use double the water average of the nation.The unsustainable city.


    Barnett's grand plans under pressure.

    The Barnett Government's planned transport spending spree has prompted warnings it could threaten the State's vaunted AAA financial rating.

    ...However, it warns that, given lavish transport pledges, this may not be enough to stem the unwanted attention of ratings agencies such as Standard & Poor's.

    "With the March 2013 election approaching, the Government has also started making new spending promises, including on transport, which is expected to be the centrepiece of the Liberal-National coalition's re-election campaign," the ANZ report said.

    "This is the type of spending that will be watched closely by Standard & Poor's, which put a negative outlook on the State's AAA rating on October 24. The action reflects concerns WA's spending program is not being tempered to take account of lower-than-expected revenue due to slowing mining conditions."

    An investigation by _The West Australian _ on Monday found $8 billion of transport projects have been announced or are being considered by the Barnett Government. The latest came on Sunday when Premier Colin Barnett unveiled a $500 million plan to ease road congestion in Perth's north.

    The Government says it is part of normal long-term transport planning, but the Opposition says it is a backlog caused by the Barnett Government's wrong priorities.

    With State debt projected to peak at $23.1 billion in 2014-15, funding the projects will be an enormous challenge. ANZ also reduced its growth forecasts for mining States because of rising costs and a high Australian dollar. It said it expected the WA economy to grow by less than its long-term average of about 5 per cent over the next two years.


    And of course while all this is going on people who value their environment and community are supposed to go and count the headstones of Kimberley Kids dying from government neglect.

    Meanwhile in Perth the monuments in the CBD go on and on.

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