Senator Larissa Waters at a public meeting to talk about GKI.
Senator Larissa Waters at a public meeting to talk about GKI. Allan Reinikka

CSG regulation in NSW 'rotten': Larissa Waters

THE spread of coal seam gas in New South Wales shows mining regulation in the state is "rotten", Greens Senator Larissa Waters says.

She was speaking after independent MP Tony Windsor called on the Federal Government to impose stricter environmental standards on CSG projects in NSW.

The NSW Government has refused to sign on to a $150 million National Partnership Agreement to regulate CSG, which Mr Windsor insisted on as part of his agreement in 2010 to hand power to Labor.

Under the NPA an independent scientific committee was established to assess all large coal and CSG developments, although environment ministers are not bound by the committee's advice.

Senator Waters called on the Federal Government to support a bill she claimed would protect the nation's water resources from the harmful effects of CSG exploration.

The bill was first introduced in 2011 and adds a "water trigger" to federal environmental laws which would give the Federal Government the power to approve or refuse CSG developments based on their impact on water resources.

Under the current laws the federal environment minister can only intervene on issues relating to endangered species.

"We need the Federal Government to step up and back my bill that would give the environment minister the power to protect our water from coal seam gas," Senator Waters said.

She said the Greens were the only party serious about acting to protect the environment from CSG.

She said Labor MP Justine Elliot's decision to relinquish her parliamentary secretary role to fight CSG in Richmond was proof of this.

"Tony Windsor was able to secure an advisory committee on coal seam gas by agreeing to support the watered-down mining tax, but this committee is a toothless tiger," she said.

"Labor MP Justine Elliot had to resign from the frontbench in order to speak publicly against coal seam gas.

"This proves Labor is willing to let their backbenchers curry favour with their local communities to win votes, despite having no intention of changing their party policy on fossil fuels."

Senator Waters also questioned whether CSG was the "clean and green" fuel the industry claimed it was and said too little was known about its impact on the environment.

She said it was time for the NSW and federal governments to "lift their games" in dealing with the contentious issue.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said he was "seeking further advice" on whether Commonwealth law needed to be changed giving him greater power to deal with water concerns as they relate to CSG mining.

Mr Burke said he would deal with the issues raised by Mr Windsor and Senator Waters "as soon as I can".

And he questioned the NSW Government's motives for wanting to go it alone and described the state's approval processes as "deficient".

"I am deeply concerned as to why it could possibly be that NSW is wanting to do fewer checks than other states," Mr Burke said.

He said the scientific committee had been established to bring independence and transparency to the system.

"We have decided that rather than have the old system where the company ... pays for all the science and then that's what comes to us, that we as a government would pay for it to be done in advance and completely independently," he said.

Mr Burke also praised the advocacy of Ms Elliot and Page MP Janelle Saffin, both of whom had been raising the issue of CSG with him for "some time".

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