Windsor gets tough on CSG
The Gillard government appears set to impose stricter environmental assessments on coal seam gas projects in NSW, accusing the state of refusing adequate approval processes.
The independent Tony Windsor is also using the power of his crucial crossbench vote to demand the Gillard government intervene to impose stricter standards.
I am not bluffing on this ... There can be no more delays.
In comments that will alarm the mining industry, the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said he shared Mr Windsor's frustration with the NSW government.
Tony Windsor … determined. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''I cannot fathom why NSW, unlike the other states, thinks they should not be using the best qualified science and the best processes, especially when people are asking whether this industry is going to cause subsidence on their land,'' he said.
Approval for coal seam gas mining is likely to become an election issue, with planned projects and new coalmines causing growing concern in western Sydney, the Hunter, northern NSW and Mr Windsor's seat of New England. He is demanding the federal government legislate to include water quality as a ''trigger'' for its environmental laws - giving it the power to intervene in what would otherwise be state assessments.
Mr Burke said he was considering what he could do under federal constitutional powers.
The issue was raised in Mr Windsor's 2010 agreement that allowed Julia Gillard to form government. But the Commonwealth then took the less provocative approach of negotiating new rules with the states.
On Tuesday Mr Windsor said that process had failed and he was determined to force the government to act to include the new trigger in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act before the election on September 14.
''It's D-day. NSW has shown they are not serious. They are not trying to fix the real problem, which is the potential for cumulative impact on water from numerous mines.
''I am not bluffing on this. I am not prepared to let it slide. There can be no more delays,'' he said.
But the industry is campaigning to allay fears about coal seam gas and opposes any new environmental laws, saying concern in Queensland had calmed when the industry began investing billions and creating jobs. And the NSW government has said its safeguards are rigorous enough to take account of all concerns.
But there is strong feeling against coal seam gas in the western Sydney seats of Macarthur, held by Liberal Russell Matheson, and Werriwa, held by Labor's Laurie Ferguson.
The Labor MP Justine Elliot, who holds the northern NSW seat of Richmond by 7 per cent, resigned as a parliamentary secretary in last weekend's reshuffle because her support for the local campaign against coal seam gas mines conflicted with her work assisting the trade minister.
❏ The federal opposition would be sure to win the election in September if Malcolm Turnbull were leader, Mr Windsor told ABC television. Asked if Labor would win with Kevin Rudd at the helm, he was more equivocal: ''Perhaps.''