The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is backing a Central Queensland climate action group in its bid to overturn the State Government’s approval of a massive Bowen Basin gas project.
Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland (EnvA-CQ) began proceedings in the Land Court on August 2 to halt Blue Energy’s plans to install 530 gas wells across more than 1000 hectares of bushland. The area includes prime habitat for koalas and other threatened species on Western Kangoulu and Barada Barna Country in Central Queensland.
In May, EnvA-CQ requested an internal review of the government approval which was granted in March. At the same time, Isaac Regional Council lodged an appeal of the decision, citing fears it “posed an unacceptable risk to the long-term social sustainability of the Isaac Region in its current form”. A review completed last month upheld the decision.
Blue Energy proposes drilling to a depth of almost 1.2km, and building about 700 kilometres of roads and pipelines.
The EDO will argue on behalf of EnvA-CQ that the project should be refused due to its potential significant negative impacts on water, threatened species habitat, climate and human rights. These impacts include the potential contamination or draining of several freshwater aquifers, the fragmenting of bushland, and the emission of at least five million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
EDO will also argue the gasfield could infringe on rights under the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) – including the right to life, the protection of children and the right to culture – by contributing to worsening climate change.
EnvA-CQ Director Coral Rowston said the project was approved with no detail about the significant environmental impacts it would cause.
“We have concerns that the groundwater modelling was inadequate and that there is not enough information to determine the real impacts on the local landholders that rely on their bores for water supply or the Lake Elphinstone nationally important wetland,” Dr Rowston said.
“As well, Blue Energy applied for an approval over three separate areas, but only did a wildlife survey over one of these areas. This was the area with the least vegetation and the company didn’t even survey the most heavily vegetated area.
“We know that there are many threatened species, such as koalas, greater gliders, and squatter pigeons, that will be impacted by Blue’s gas project, but the company was given an approval on the basis that it will ‘investigate further’ before progressing its damaging gas project.”
EDO Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said it was unreasonable for the State Government to approve the project.
“On the face of it, it is apparent that the proposal will have a very significant negative impact on a range of environmental values, from water volume and quality, threatened species habitat, and the climate,” Ms Pointon said.
“The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it clear that no more fossil fuel sources can be opened if the world is serious about living up to its commitments and avoiding a significantly worsening climate crisis.”
In November, EDO represented Youth Verdict and the Bimblebox Alliance in a similar legal challenge, with the Land Court finding a proposed coal mine in the Galilee Basin would unjustifiably limit the human rights of Queenslanders and First Nations Peoples.