Coal fields council raises concerns about gas project

A council at the heart of Queensland’s coal fields has opposed a planned new gas field in central Queensland claiming it could trigger unmanaged, negative impacts and lost benefits.

Jun 05, 2023, updated Jun 05, 2023
QPM is cashing in on energy volatility (Pic: REUTERS/Raquel Cunha)

QPM is cashing in on energy volatility (Pic: REUTERS/Raquel Cunha)

The Isaac Regional Council’s submission relating to Blue Energy’s proposed gas field opposed the application on the grounds “it poses an unacceptable risk to the long-term social sustainability of the Isaac Region in its current form”.

The council’s chief concern was about how a relatively small gas field could add to the cumulative impacts on the region, but the company has said it has done everything that was required of it and the 530 wells it planned would be drilled over the 20-year life of the project.

Blue said wells would also have the impact of degassing coal seams ahead of any mining. That gas would normally escape into the environment.

The council said that the size of the project meant that its impact may be considered negligible, but could become significantly magnified in a cumulative sense, particularly in areas already under strain.

There was also the issue of project creep where smaller scale gas fields such as the one proposed by Blue Energy, could get bigger over time as it expanded without triggering a full environmental impact study.

“The cumulative impact of numerous small operations for which current legislation does not require social impacts to be assessed should not be underestimated,” the council submission said.

Isaac’s submission said the potential impacts and opportunities remained unmanaged because of the potential expansion.

The council also raised concerns about the impact of the workforce for the gasfield. Although the numbers of workers was considered small there was no consideration by the company in relation to cumulative impacts.

The submission has been seized upon by environmental group, Lock the Gate, which said the council was showing it feared for the region’s social fabric.

Its Queensland co-ordinator Ellie Smith said the company should have learnt from experience in Wide Bay where its licences expired and were not renewed following some community opposition.

“Isaac Regional Council has borne the brunt of some of the most negative social and environmental impacts of Queensland’s coal industry. It’s clear the council is now saying enough is enough to both the Palaszczuk Government and to companies that try to barge in and damage the social fabric and existing infrastructure of the region,” she said.

Blue Energy chief executive John Phillips said the company was not required to do an Environmental Impact Statement, which contains all those elements referred to by the council, because of its small size and separated nature of the areas contained in the application. It also had agreed to abide by the standard conditions in a site specific environmental authority.

“We applied for a Site Specific Environmental Authority and we have complied with the application requirements of that specific authority, and since the Department of Environment and Science accepted the application and had awarded those EA’s to Blue, we are of the view that the department had assessed the applications under the criteria and found the applications complied with those requirements,” he said.

“The applications were made public, and open to public comment, and the Government presumably incorporated those comments in their decision.

“Clearly the opponents of this project have an issue with the Government’s decision in this matter and are voicing their opposition to the standard process of assessment the Government has taken. Blue has complied with the requirements set down by Government for this category of environmental approval.”



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