By Ross Kelly
SYDNEY--Australian coal seam gas projects or large coal mines
that could lower the quality of water resources will now be
assessed by federal lawmakers under new laws proposed Tuesday.
It comes as big international oil companies and miners invest
billions of dollars developing resources for export to fast-growing
Asian economies, while facing opposition from other land users like
farmers and horse breeders. The most contentious projects are
clustered on the eastern seaboard in Queensland and New South Wales
Adding a new layer of approvals is likely to push up costs of
projects at a time when returns are coming under increasing
pressure. Coal seam gas developments led by BG Group PLC (BG.LN),
Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG.AU) and Santos Ltd. (STO.AU) in Queensland
have all overrun budgets due to technical challenges and issues
ranging from labor shortages to the high Australian dollar.
The impact of coal seam gas and coal mines on water resources is
only monitored by state governments at present. Federal lawmakers
are able to take account of water issues if they relate to
threatened species or internationally significant wetlands.
"The proposed amendments will ensure that coal seam gas and
large coal mining developments must be assessed and approved under
national environment law, if they are likely to have a significant
impact on a water resource," Environment Minister Tony Burke said
in a statement.
To comply with the federal approval process, additional
information will be required on top of what's needed in the
state-based approvals process. Mr. Burke, however, said most of the
data would have already been addressed in state-based
Companies already undergoing an assessment will need to work on
providing additional information for the federal approvals process
"straight away", Mr. Burke said.
Write to Ross Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires