Spotlight on ‘flawed’ CSG approvals process

GAS giants Santos and Queensland Gas Company (QGC) have hit back at claims of a ‘flawed’ approval process for their coal seam gas (CSG) projects.
ABC’s Four Corners program reported claims by a former Queensland public servant that the environmental impact assessment on two major CSG projects lacked important information.
According to senior environment a specialist Simone Marsh – who was part of the team that approved Santos’s $18 billion Gladstone LNG project (GLNG) and QGC’s $20 billion Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) in 2010 – the final stages of the approval process were rushed and the environmental impacts were not properly looked at.
“All the scientific arguments in the world wouldn’t have changed things in that situation,” she told Four Corners.
“They had decided they wanted to go ahead with the projects and there was nothing stopping it.”
Ms Marsh told the ABC she was concerned about the Santos project’s environmental approval.
“I was taken into a meeting room, sat down and told that there wasn’t going to be a chapter on groundwater and I was stunned,” she said.
“I said, ‘What are you talking about?’.” An anonymous colleague of Ms March told the ABC there was pressure to get through the documents.
“We were given less than four weeks to deal with 10,000 pages of documents,” th colleague said.
However, QGC and Santos both issued statements that said assessments had complied with State Government regulations. “It would have been inaccurate and premature to provide the specific location of all infrastructure at the EIS (environmental impact statement) stage as negotiations with landholders had yet to occur,” Santos said in a statement.
“Similarly, undertaking detailed environmental and cultural heritage survey work across such a large area, most of which will never be disturbed, would have been impractical and potentially misleading,” the statement said.
Santos managing director David Knox told ABC Radio that “there was a very extensive set of groundwater studies done” and that the “process from our side was run with the highest level of integrity”. QGC stated the final details of the project constantly evolve until the approval process has been completed.
“The exact locations of wells, pipelines and other infrastructure depend on detailed negotiations with individual landholders as well as cultural heritage and environmental constraints,” the statement said.
“Gas companies must be granted environmental authorities and petroleum leases before these detailed negotiations with landholders can occur.” QGC also stated there were a number of things unable to be fully covered in the report. “Greenhouse gas emissions are an example of a matter that cannot be addressed entirely in an environmental impact statementbecause the volume of emissions depend on factors such as plant design and operational specifications which, in turn, can be resolved only after permits have been granted,” the company stated.
The GLNG project would comprise gas fields in the Bowen Basin and Surat Basin, a 420km underground gas transmission pipeline to Gladstone and two-train LNG processing facility on Curtis Island in Gladstone, while the QCLNG project was estimated to increase economic activity in Queensland by about $32 billion.

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