The Queensland port city of Gladstone has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately.
Fish and other marine life have been infected by a strange parasite that seemed to make the leap to humans. The outbreak led to a local fishing ban which was recently overturned, despite lingering concerns about water quality and the health of fish.
So what sort of assessments were done to predict the environmental effects of LNG developments? Was enough done? And what will be the long-term effects for the local environment and the people of Gladstone?
Quite simply, the Gladstone case highlights the flaws in the environmental impact assessment and approvals processes overseen by state and federal governments.
In order to start a project such as the one on Curtis Island, LNG companies are required to carry out environmental impacts assessments (EISs). These assessments must be approved by the state government and by the Commonwealth, if the type of environmental damage is covered under Commonwealth legislation – in the case of biodiversity impacts, for example.
Notably, these EISs are done by private companies hired by the businesses backing the project.
In the case of LNG, there are separate EISs covering the extraction and piping of coal seam gas to Gladstone by four companies: GLNG, QCLNG, Australia Pacific LNG and Gladstone LNG. Shell LNG is currently at the proposal stage.