The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has released its final report on regulation in the coal seam gas (CSG) industry. Last year, the State Government asked the QCA to look for opportunities to remove regulation and make it even easier for industry to conduct CSG operations in Queensland.
In December 2013, EDO Qld prepared a comprehensive submission highlighting that no further reduction in community participation rights on CSG projects should be recommended as it is already near impossible for communities to understand the impacts of CSG projects and effectively engage in the environmental assessment and approval processes.
In the final report, whilst the QCA noted EDO Qld’s concerns (at pages 35, 91 and 98) they ultimately dismissed the substance of them and recommended against improving opportunities for public engagement in the CSG assessment process, particularly for Coordinated Projects. The report also recommended extending ‘standard conditions’ to Coordinated Projects and having the Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning (DSDIP) oversee other agency’s roles in the CSG industry.
By and large, EDO Qld is disappointed with the QCA’s final recommendations. In our view, the largest and most risky projects in Queensland (Coordinated Projects) require maximum consultation rights to give communities the best chance of participating in environmental decision making that effects their lives.
Following the greentape reforms in 2013, the process is heavily weighted in favour of industry as it stands. Standard conditions are the easy way out for big developers and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. We should be having more scrutiny, not less of the biggest and most complex projects in Queensland due to their intensity, scale and potential for environmental impacts.
The likely next step is that the State Government will respond to QCA’s report by introducing legislation and/or policy changes. That is expected to occur shortly. When that happens, EDO Qld will be there again to fight for community rights and the environment every step of the way.