Windsor warns: do not ‘gut’ the water triggers

FORMER New England MP Tony Windsor has appealed to the Abbott government not to “gut” coal seam gas water protections as it seeks to cut so-called green tape.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week announced a “Repeal Day” in parliament for March 26, when the government promises to abolish 9000 regulations.

It follows moves by Environment Minister Greg Hunt to streamline the approvals process by setting up one-stop shops managed by the states.

Mr Windsor, who was key to the introduction of a water “trigger” for federal environmental assessments, said he feared it was now under threat under the guise of reducing regulation and federal-state duplication.

“The game that will potentially be played here is to keep the water trigger but gut it,” he warned yesterday.

Under the trigger introduced by the previous Labor government, coal seam gas projects that could impact on groundwater need to be assessed by an independent scientific committee before federal approval.

The committee was formed in 2012 and granted $200 million in funding following negotiations with the former independent on the mining tax.

Launching the Australia Institute report Fracking the Future, Mr Windsor said people did not trust the states and wanted federal oversight of approvals.

The report accuses the gas industry of exaggerating the economic and environmental benefits of expanding CSG production, saying the jobs figures and price savings were wildly overstated.

It also includes an online survey from November, which found 71 per cent of people wanted federal regulation of the industry.

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