Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Am I being cynical in suspecting that the Liberal and Nationals parties are looking to the mining industry for political donations in this 2016 federal election year?

Am I being cynical in suspecting that the Liberal and Nationals parties are looking to the mining industry for political donations in 2016?

I cannot know the answer for certain as there is no real time reporting of political donations in Australia.

However, the timing of these moves by the Baird Government looks suspiciously like the Coalition has gone a-courting.

Penalties of just $5000 could be issued to coal seam gas companies who explore or mine without permission instead of a potential $1.1 million fine under changes introduced by the Baird government.
As energy minister Anthony Roberts unveiled plans to clamp down on anti-coal seam gas protesters, the government has ushered in smaller alternative penalties to court prosecution for a range of offences.
For example, mining without authority - currently a $1.1 million fine plus $110,000 per day for a company if successfully prosecuted in court - can now be punished with a $5000 penalty notice.
Prospecting without authority - currently a $550,000 fine and $55,000 per day under a prosecution - may now be dealt with via a $5000 penalty notice.
Failure to provide information and records to an inspector - currently a $1.1 million fine  and $110,000 a day under a prosecution - is now punishable with a $5000 penalty notice……
On Monday, Mr Roberts unveiled proposed laws giving police additional powers "to deal with people who intend to 'lock-on' to equipment", and authority to move people on in all protest activities.
Sue Higginson, principal solicitor with Environmental Defenders Office NSW, said they are an over-reach and the current laws have been applied successfully for many years.
"The proposed increase to police powers appears to be unnecessary and in part a substantial intrusion on civil liberties," Ms Higginson said.
The timing of the new laws was "like waving a red rag to a bull," she said.
"The legality of the CSG activities of Santos in the Pilliga is currently being questioned in the NSW Courts, along with the actions of the Department of Industry," Ms Higginson said, noting the Land and Environment Court will begin hearings on a legal challenge against Santos on April 6……

Meanwhile in the NSW Upper House the Greens Jeremy Buckingham continues his battle of many years:

356. Mr Buckingham to move— That leave be given to bring in a bill for an Act to prohibit exploration for and mining of minerals and petroleum in the Liverpool Plains and certain land within the Hunter Valley; and for other purposes. (Mining Control (Protect Liverpool Plains and Hunter Critical Industry Clusters) Bill) (Notice given 27 August 2015)

425. Mr Buckingham to move— 1. That this House notes that: (a) there are currently no insurance providers available to farmers in New South Wales who provide a product to insure against potential Coal Seam Gas (CSG) contamination, (b) leading environmental insurance specialist Anthony Saunders has today told the Land Newspaper that the risk of contamination from CSG activities in New South Wales cannot be insured because “no insurance company wants to be responsible for a future claim that is quite likely”, and (c) he has also said that “if future financial loss of the landholder as a result of CSG mining 300 kilometres away is uninsurable, then the activities of the CSG company could be considered as reckless”. 2. That this House calls on the Government to explain how coal seam gas drilling can be legal in New South Wales when there is no insurance cover available for farmers to cover the process. (Notice given 17 September 2015—expires Notice Paper No. 45)

438. Mr Buckingham to move— 1. That this House notes that AGL has spent the past 18 months trying to prevent the release of a 2013 site visit report from the Environmental Protection Authority examining AGL’s Hunter coal seam gas fields.
2. That this House notes that this report reveals routine and systemic failures in AGL’s management of its coal seam gas (CSG) wells including:
(a) 212 tonnes of AGL’s CSG waste being transported to a non-licenced facility, Bettergrow,
(b) the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) expressing concern that AGL “is not ensuring that drilling waste at the site is being disposed in an environmentally friendly and proper manner”,
(c) a completely inadequate and unreliable groundwater monitoring program which included:
(i) inadequate information about how samples were collected,
(ii) no information on the special precautions necessary for taking samples for trace contaminant groundwater sampling,
(iii) not taking the necessary precautions to prevent contamination of samples during groundwater sampling,
(iv) limited data on quality control,
(v) using unreliable house methods to analysing samples, (vi) inadequate monitoring of dissolved metals,
(d) significant well integrity issues including at least five breaches of the Well Integrity Code of Practice and two breaches of AGL’s Environmental Management Plan for CSG activities despite the EPA noting that “if the cementing process is not undertaken properly, liquids from aquifers and gas may migrate and cause inter aquifer connectivity and pollution of groundwater.”, including:
(i) a core hole left without a casing for two months,
(ii) using the wrong cement in a well,
(iii) potential leaching of heavy metals in the fly ash to groundwater,
(iv) no placement of temporary plugs in a perforated well, even though this “provides a pathway for highly saline formation water from with the coal seams to migrate within the casing”,
(v) samples of cement slurry not being kept for the duration of the well as required,
(vi) no information available on the integrity of cement bonds, (vii) no laboratory tests of the cement slurry undertaken as required,
(viii) no cement bond log carried out for two wells “to ensure that the cement bond provided an effective barrier to prevent any interaction between aquifers” as required,
(e) no monitoring of potential gas leaks,
(f) drill pads not being maintained properly,
(g) no dust suppression controls in place,
(h) breaches of their Soil and Water Management plan including no monitoring of run off estimates or sediment controls for major storm events,
(i) spills or leaks of liquids onto drill pads, (j) inadequate storage and no secondary containment of drilling fluids and chemicals, which led the EPA to note their concern that “spills or leaks could potentially pollute groundwater”, and
(k) no high level overflow or low level alarm on the mud tank, contrary to international best practice. (Notice given 13 October 2015—expires Notice Paper No. 46)

509. Mr Buckingham to move— That leave be given to bring in a bill for an Act to prohibit the grant, renewal or modification of authorisations and titles that permit exploration for and mining of minerals and petroleum (including coal seam gas) in Central Coast water catchment areas. (Central Coast Water Catchments Protection Bill) (Notice given 28 October 2015)

579. Mr Buckingham to move— 1. That this House notes that:
(a) Gloucester Council today passed a motion 6-1, put by the Mayor, Councillor Rosenbaum, which read as follows: “That Council write to the Premier and Minister Roberts requesting negotiations be commenced with AGL to buy back the Licence for the following reasons.
* the social fabric of the Gloucester community is suffering
* mental health issues and trust.”, and
(b) the background to the motion by Councillor Rosenbaum notes that: “Ethically, I am asking the Government for understanding of my great concern for our community after the death by suicide of farmer George Bender, in Chinchilla, Queensland. Morally, our Council cannot sit back and ignore the fact of the effects this is having on our people. One life lost is too many - this could happen here, this is real not a perception. The wellbeing of our people is suffering and the mental health and other issues too many to mention; the length of time has been too long.”
2. That this House calls on the Premier and the Minister for Resources and Energy to respect the wishes of the Gloucester Council and community and immediately commence negotiations to buy back AGL’s Coal Seam Gas licence. (Notice given 18 November 2015—expires Notice Paper No. 59)

603. Mr Buckingham to move— 1. That this House notes that on 4 February 2016, AGL Energy announced that it will no longer be involved in coal seam gas in New South Wales or Queensland, handing back its licence for the Gloucester Gas Project, and flagging that production will cease at its Camden Gas Project in 2023, 12 years earlier than expected.
2. That this House congratulates:
(a) the people of Gloucester and Camden, for their passionate and well organised efforts to protect their land and water, and
(b) AGL, for their decision to pull out of coal seam gas and to set up a $2 million legacy fund to assist the town of Gloucester to grow sustainably. (Notice given 23 February 2016—expires Notice Paper No. 61)

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