New documents released under a Freedom of Information request have raised fresh questions about why the water impacts of Adani's massive North Galilee Water Scheme will not be assessed under federal laws.
A new ABC report is raising questions about the approvals process for Adani's plan to pump 12 billion litres of river water to its Carmichael mine, with documents showing the Department of Environment and Energy went against advice from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in allowing the project to proceed without an assessment of its impact to water resources.
The documents include submissions from government departments on Adani's referral to the federal Department of Environment and Energy over the North Galilee Water Scheme, its pipeline from the Suttor River in Queensland to its Carmichael mine site.
The project has been given the green light to proceed by the Department without the need for an Environmental Impact Statement, and no federal assessment of its impact to water resources.
Since that decision, community groups have questioned why the project's impacts to water resources will not be assessed under the 'water trigger' amendment to the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Under the 2013 amendment, large coal projects that are likely to have a significant impact on water resources are required to go through a more rigorous assessment.
The documents, newly released under a FOI request by Lock The Gate, seem to confirm the community's concerns.
A submission from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources contained advice that the North Galilee Water Scheme could have a significant impact on water resources.
The submission states: “The department considers the proposed action could have a significant impact(s) on a water resource, in relation to coal seam gas development and large coal development, protected under the EPBC Act”.
Despite this, the Department of Environment and Energy decided the 'water trigger' did not apply.
Another submission, from Geoscience Australia, also called into question Adani's own referral documents to the Federal Government, indicating the company failed to consider Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems despite there being a large number in the affected area.
EDO Qld principal solicitor Sean Ryan said the contents of the documents were “concerning.”
“These new documents raise serious questions as to why the water impacts of this project are not being thoroughly assessed under federal laws,” said EDO Qld principal solicitor Sean Ryan.
“The water trigger contained in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was specifically designed to deal with actions involving large coal mining projects with a significant impact on a water resource.”
“It’s there to protect Australia’s precious water resources, and make sure that coal projects that impact them are thoroughly assessed at a federal level.”
“The North Galilee Water Scheme Project is expressly for large coal mines in the Galilee Basin.”
“Now these new documents reveal that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources considers this project could have a significant impact on water resources – advice that will confirm the fears of drought-affected agricultural landholders.”
“It is concerning that, in these circumstances, the Department of Environment and Energy has decided that the project, and its water impacts, do not require thorough assessment through an Environmental Impact Statement.”