29 April, 2011

Carbon Price, Coal Seam Gas, Flood, Cows

ASBG June Seminars
ASBG QLD is very excited about a couple of seminars to be hosted at Norton Rose Australia in June 2011.

We are still fine tuning the programmes. Registration forms will be sent out soon. Both these seminars will provide an update on the recent changes to Australian & Queensland Laws affecting Environment & Safety respectively.

The Environmental Management Seminar on Thursday 15 June 08:00-12:30 will feature Andrew Wilford discussing the bigger picture & setting the context for Environmental Management.

Rebecca Hoare (Norton Rose Australia) will provide an overview & an update of recent changes to Australian & QLD Environmental Law.

Omar Ameer from DERM will be informing those who attend the seminar on how to stay out of trouble with one’s Environmental Regulator.

On Wednesday 22 June from 08:00 to 12:30, ASBG is running a Safety Management Seminar which will include the new changes to Dangerous Goods Packaging & Labeling requirements (Global Harmonisation).

There is a Carbon Price workshop ready to roll, as soon as there is sufficient detail released by the federal Government (watch this space).

Implementation of the Carbon Price

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is calling for written submissions from interested stakeholders on the proposed architecture and implementation arrangements for a carbon pricing mechanism.

Submissions will be used by the Department to inform the development of policy options for discussion by the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC). In order that views can be taken fully into account in the design of policy options, the Department is seeking written submissions by close of business 10 May 2011. Submissions should be emailed to CarbonPriceSubmissions@climatechange.gov.au by 10 May 2011

Coal Seam Gas
ASBG QLD have been hearing a lot of about Coal Seam Gas from frustrated proponents and disaffected opponents who share a common grievance with the Queensland Government Regulators: The Department of Environment & Resource Management (DERM) &/or the Queensland Water Commission (QWC).

ASBG QLD recently heard from a frustrated Environmental Manager from a major Coal Seam Gas proponent, complaining about the amount of pointless analyses & data collection that was required by the Regulators that:
A) Added no value (in terms of knowledge or information);
B) Used time, money & human resources that could be better spent on problem solving or collecting more useful information.

As Environmental Practitioners, there is going to be a huge demand for our services to address complex environmental & regulatory compliance issues.

It would appear the Regulator faces a problem with recruiting and retaining staff (with appropriate qualifications & experience). Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the Coal Seam Gas industry is poaching staff (either passively or actively) from where ever it can get them.

ASBG QLD has started to hear more stories from other industry sectors (such as Petroleum Refining & the Sugar Industry) that are losing staff to the Coal Seam Gas sector and are having a lot of difficulty replacing them.

An unusual alliance of farmers, environmentalists & scientists called the Western Downs Alliance has been lobbying the State and Federal Governments claiming that Coal Seam Gas activities are potentially hazardous to human health, agricultural land & underground water.
One of the Western Downs Alliance’s greatest fears is that Coal Seam Gas Development could irreparably damage the Great Artesian Basin. This lobby is calling on Government/s to impose a moratorium on the industry until all outstanding social & environmental issues have been addressed.

Qld Flood Inquiry
The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry continues its public hearings into the 2010-11 flood events. It was heartbreaking to hear about the emergency calls from flood victims in Toowoomba and hear of the heroics of the people of Grantham.

The public hearings will be held in Goondiwindi, St George and Brisbane this coming week (3-6 May 2011). The interim report is due in August 2011, to enable early recommendations to be implemented before next summer's wet season.

Cows means Farts

ASBG QLD’s newly acquired rural reporter, Lord Julian of Boonah, reports that farmers are happy because cattle prices are at a high & there is lots of grass around!

ASBG is interested in what Lord Julian will make of Professor Ross Garnaut’s Update Paper 4: Transforming rural land use.

24 April, 2011

an Easter Rant about cars, poo & wee, diarrhea & vomitting

Apparently up to six people will read this rant, if I am lucky. Well, six people will look at this rant. I have seen the statistics, my blog is not very popular. So my blog has become my confessional.

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. This week, I drove a car.

I have given up trying to save the world......It is not my world to save.

However, I have also given up working in the fossil fuels industry.

I once provided Environmental management services to petroleum refineries. I am now a card carrying member of petroleum anonymous....

Up until this week, I could say:

My name is Rowan Barber, I am a petroleum addict, it has been six years since I last drove a car.

......but I have fallen off (or on) the wagon. Last week, I was required to drive a car as part of my new responsibilities, working for a water utility.

It gets worse.

I have taken on a job as an inspector, supervising the installation, renovation &/or repairs to sewers & water mains.

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen first hand - how silly we all are.

We take our Number 1's (also known as urine) & we mix it with vast quantities of drinking water & our Number 2's (also knowns as faeces). This slurry is gravity feed and/or pumped over vast distances (predominantly using coal fired electricity) to sewage treatment plants.

At the sewage treatment plants, we (as a society at Municipality level) spend vast sums of money, time & electricity, separating our Number 1's from our Number 2's and the water (which is no longer drinking water quality).

We (Ratepayers & Taxpayers) have built a vast network of pipes & pumps to move our mixture of poo, wee, water & industrial waste across 100's of kilometres.

Many of these pipes leak.

The slurry of substances in sewage is highly toxic & choc full of human specific pathogens.

This is not wise.

During the floods in South East Queensland in January 2011, (in my view) the system completely failed. Our sewers were inundated with flood water. Many pump stations & sewage treatment plants were also inundated with flood water.

The untreated sewage mixed with flood water & mud, was distributed in and through our low-lying suburbs.

The mud (erosion of topsoil from places like the Grantham, Toowoomba and all the upper catchment areas of the Bremer & Brisbane Rivers), became a nutrient rich matrix for cultivating human specific infectious diseases.

During the peak of the flood (12 January 2011), our former Prime Minister - Kevin Rudd was out wading through floodwaters, assisting to evacuate his electorate. On the 15 January 2011, he was admitted to hospital with some sort of foot infection.

Months later, there is still anecdotal evidence of an epidemic of diarrhea & vomiting, which may have begun from flood water to human transmissions. These illnesses appear to be persisting through human to human transmissions (at Child Care centres, schools & workplaces etc).

As I write this blog post at 4:00 am on Sunday 24 April 2011, I have been up all night looking after my 20 month old daughter.

She has a fever. She has been vomiting. Her poos are liquid. She wakes up coughing. This is her third episode of this kind of illness since January.

She is going to be ok. We have paracetomol to reduce her fevers. We have been able to keep her hydrated & re-hydrated. She is still getting some food & formula and holding it down (or in) long enough for her little body to take in some nutrients.

According to Water Aid,

"Diarrhoeal diseases kill a child every 20 seconds."

So as the carbon tax rages around me in Australia, every 20 seconds a child (like my daughter), dies from easily preventable diseases.

In many developing communities, they poo & wee on the streets. They do not have toilets. Flies, rats, dust, wind & rain transfer human pathogens directly or indirectly from poo to people.

In my own community, we are sophisticated. We poo in toilets. We mix in our wee & we flush it away with lots of water. We all know about Carbon Dioxide now. Some of us deny the impacts. Some of us ignore the consequences, but how many people actually know where their poo goes?

Here is a song I wrote a few years ago, to the tune of the Beach Boy's song - Surfin' USA.

I wrote this song in frustration, at the stupidity of what we do as a society & as municipalities in Australia. In Brisbane we have $7 billion worth of water recycling infrastucture (pipes, pumps, plants) which is sitting idle, because we do not recycle our sewage. We are still discharging tertiary treated sewage back into our creeks, rivers & oceans. When it rains or floods, we discharge untreated sewage back into our creeks, rivers & oceans.

Well everybody did a motion,
Across the U.S.E*....
& it all ends up in the ocean,
We're surfing poo & wee,
You’d see em flushing the toliet
mixing their ones & twos
flushin with potable water,
Surfin wee & poo

Sewage has primary treatment,
To remove the chunks that stink,
By the time its tertiary treated,
It could be fit to drink....
All that embodied energy,
Embodied water too...
Would it not be better to separate our ones & twos?

You see the deep outfalls at Bondi
& discharged at Potter Point
Sepia Depression & Bolivar
Sandgate & Luggage Point
All over Port Phillip Bay
& Gunnamatta Beach

Everybodys gone surfin
Surfin wee & poo

We all mix our wee & poo,
We’re gonna flush real soon
We’re flushing down our faeces
We just waste our poo
We could be growing our veges
We could be growing a tree
Tell Jack Sim were surfin
Surfin poo & wee

Gibson Island desal plant
is keeping Incitec cool
they waste the Nitrogen & phosphorus
then burn the fossil fuel
All over Australia
We mix our ones & twos
Everybodys gone surfin
Surfin wee & poo

Everybodys gone surfin
Surfin wee & poo.

Everybodys gone surfin
Surfin wee & poo

*United States of emergency

17 April, 2011

Sustainable Business Weekly QLD Edition [Water, Ideas, Sustainable Food]

ASBG June workshops

This week ASBG announced a couple of workshops to be hosted at Norton Rose in June. Registration forms will be sent out soon.

Both these workshops will provide an update on the recent changes to Australian & Queensland Laws affecting Environment & Safety respectively.

Thursday 15 June 08:00-12:30

Environmental Management Practitioner's Workshop

Wednesday 22 June 08:00-12:30

Safety Management Practitioner's Workshop (incl Global Harmonisation).

There is a Carbon Price workshop ready to roll, as soon as there is sufficient detail released by the federal Government (watch this space).

ASBG attended a breakfast meeting on the National Broadband Network (NBN) hosted by Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. ASBG are looking at holding a discussion forum to discuss the Ecological Sustainability aspects of the NBN.

The blame game

Last week the Premier, Anna Bligh, made an announcement in Parliament relating to the possibility of councils taking back their water businesses.

Brisbane City’s Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, has spoken to the media stating that Brisbane City Council is not at this stage planning to resume control of water and sewerage services. Brisbane City Council is more focused on calling on the QLD State Government to cap bulk water prices.

It’s business as usual for Queensland Urban Utilities (which covers the municipalities of Brisbane, Ipswich, Scenic Rim, Lockyer & Somerset). ASBG cannot imagine any of the other Councils wanting to take back the associated risks & liabilities.

Qld Flood Inquiry

Last week the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry announced the first round of public hearings into the 2010-11 flood events. The interim report is due in August 2011, to enable early recommendations to be implemented before next summer's wet season.

Last week the Inquiry focused on the operations of the dam. The Operations Engineers gave testimony about the procedures they follow. It was noted that priority is given to the integrity of the dam itself. The inquiry reviewed the decisions concerning the impact downstream, particularly flooding in the urban areas of Ipswich and Brisbane.

The public hearings will be held in Toowoomba and Dalby this coming week (18-20 April 2011).


Ideas Festival Program

The 2011 Ideas Festival will be held from 19 to 22 May at the State Library. Delve a little deeper into the themes of food futures, sustainability and happiness, things are bound to get a little bit deep and meaningful.

The Festival Program was release this week.

Sustainable Food

This week Food Connect is celebrating the first birthday of 3 of it's pioneering replications. The three social enterprises based in Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide have taken the model pioneered by Food Connect Brisbane and adapted it to work for local farmers in and around their respective cities. The model is an innovative hybridization of the well know Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) local food system gaining support around the world.

The founder of Food Connect Robert Pekin said this week that "even through trying times for a lot of businesses these replications had taken a lead role in proving that you can be good at business and also be good for farmers at the same time".

A recent survey, carried out by Independent consultants, interviewed 6 of the original farmers concluded with the all the farmers describing food connect as a friend. Many of these farmers would not be in business today if it were not for Food Connect. This is despite the desperate figures of an average of five farmers leaving the land in Australia per week.

From a competitive point of view Food Connect is around 20% more affordable and yet still manages to return an average of 50% of the retail dollar back to the farmers (the average is around 15%) Robert commented. "I don't actually know of any retail distributor that even comes close to the value given back to farmers than us".

At the recent national sustainable food summit held in Melbourne recently, the Food Connect model was mooted as one of the few models that embodied how a truly sustainable food business should look and act. The Food Connect Foundation was set up around 2 years ago to be the custodians of the replication of the model as well as set up other programs needed to provide food and fibre resilience to communities.

For information foodconnect.com.au

In future editions of the Sustainable Business Weekly, ASBG will discuss a Life Cycle Analysis of a foodconnect tomato, which was carried out by the Engineering firm Arup.

16 April, 2011

Campaign Ruby - a review

It was my Dad's birthday in March.

What does one get one's benevolent father, who (by his own admission) has everything he wants or needs?

I had a chat to my Mum and threatened to get Dad a copy of Jessica Rudd's first novel. My family has a history of buying each other presents that we would want for our respective selves.

Mum received a milkshake maker for one of her birthdays. Anyway, cutting to the chase, Mum thought "Campaign Ruby" might be inappropriate for my Dad. She thought is may be a little risqué or perhaps too Mills & Boonish. So Mum struck preemptively and bought "Campaign Ruby" for me.

I was hooked from the start. Unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of reading it through the night. I have a beloved wife & a 20 month old daughter who consume almost all of my waking moments (apart from the 40 hours a week that I spend peering down sewers). My family are my world & I have very little time these days for recreational reading.

So I read "Campaign Ruby" in installments. A half hour over lunch. Another half hour in the evening before acute hypersomnia would kick in. Like Bobby Sands through an hour glass, so are they days of our lives.....

Con-current to my interest in "Campaign Ruby", our illustrious former Lord Mayor announced his intentions to run for the seat of Ashgrove.

So I found myself filling out an application to join the Labor Party. After three years of waging a futile campaign against 32 000 tonnes of CO2e during construction and an estimated annual GHG emissions for the operation of the project are 18 120 tonnes CO2-e (averaged over a 12 year period from time of opening) from the Northern Link Road Tunnel.

So I followed Ruby Stanhope around a fictional campaign trail, as homework for an eminent campaign for the seat of #Ashgrove.

I found myself completely engaged in the world depicted by Jessica Rudd. I wanted to write letters to Max Masters (the Leader of the Opposition - also known as the LOO), supporting his immigration policy. I also wanted to scream when I realised that Ruby Stanhope - Former Senior Analyst (Emerging Markets) had no appreciation of ecological limits to growth.

I found it refreshing to read a novel with such great characters. The women were real women. The men were realistic men (with limited fashion sense, something I could relate to). My favourite character was Ruby's niece - Clem also known as Clementine Genevieve Gardner-Stanhope. My least favourite character was Ruby's brother-in-Law, Mark because I know blokes like that.

So, I basically I am saying that "Campaign Ruby" is definitely worth the read. It is not the "Brigit Jone's Diary" I was expecting and although Ruby swears like a trooper and sleeps with an egomaniac, the sex is not gratuitous. Thankfully, there is not too much information. The insights (and/or incites) into politics are fascinating and accessible, even to those without much interest in politics.

If @Taezar were to ask me HowmanyPandas? I would have to say six out of five Pandas. I will be interested to hear what my Mum thinks. Now I am waiting for the sequel- #RubyBlues

Jess Rudd reports on twitter: "First draft of is almost ready to submit *throws air punch*"
I cannot wait.......but I guess i will have to.

10 April, 2011

Sustainable Business Weekly QLD Edition [Water Blame Game, Climate Adaption, Climate Action]

The blame game

Premier Anna Bligh has moved to end the water blame game by blaming Local Governments for water price rises.

The QLD State Government has decided to repeal the sections of the South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) Act 2009. The State has capped distribution and retail annual water and sewerage price increases at CPI, which currently stands at 2.7%.

The changes make councils responsible for the price of water charged to their ratepayer. However, the State continues to produce, treat & share the bulk water across the SEQ region via a water grid.

Queensland Urban Utilities welcomed the State Government’s announcement of a 2-year price cap on water and sewerage charges but called on the State Government to extend the cap to its own bulk water prices.

The QLD State Government is still trying to recover over $7b in costs from idle or mothballed infrastructure built during the 2002-2009 drought, including:

· An idle Gold Coast desal plant;

· An un-used indirect potable reuse scheme;

· A water grid, including a Northern pipeline to a non-existent Traveston Crossing Dam

Qld Flood Inquiry

The Qld Floods Commission of Inquiry begins this week and will hold public hearings in affected areas.

A Department of Environment & Resource Management briefing note submitted to the inquiry, says it would be too costly to build flood storage space in dams around some of the worst hit regional Queensland towns.

National Water Commission report on Urban Water

The National Water Commission has entered the water blame game, saying (State & Local) Governments should drop their resistance to policy options including potable reuse of treated wastewater, new dams and rural-to-urban transfers.

A new National Water Commission report on Urban water in Australia, says Governments tend to rely too heavily on water restrictions and should consider all options in an "even-handed" way.

The report also recommends that:

· utilities offer pricing plans that allow customers to choose the level of water supply security that best matches their needs;

· Governments publicly report the cost-benefit assessments of various options.

· COAG develop "national objectives" for the urban water sector and general principles to guide reform;

· jurisdictions establish specific standards for supply security, environmental sustainability, public health and waterway health.

Byerwen coal mine

The draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the proposed $1.5 billion Byerwen coal mine in the northern Bowen Basin has been released by the Coordinator-General for public feedback as part of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the project's potential social, environmental and economic impacts.

The Byerwen coal project proposes a mine located at a greenfield site approximately 140 km west of Mackay, near the mining townships of Collinsville and Glenden.

The $1.5 billion project could produce up to 10 million tonnes per annum over 50 years of high-quality, metallurgical coking coal primarily for the Japanese and Asian export markets.

Coking coal is used primarily for the manufacture of steel.

To view the draft Byerwen Coal Project TOR, visit www.dlgp.qld.gov.au/projects

Submissions must be lodged by close of business on 16 May 2011 to byerwen@cg.qld.gov.au

Coastal Plan – Climate adaption

A new Queensland coastal plan (Department of Environment and Resource Management, April 2011) imposes development controls on areas at high risk from climate change-related sea level rise and obliges coastal councils to prepare adaptation strategies for urban areas.

Reflecting the most recent international (IPCC) estimates, climate-change related hazard areas are identified assuming a sea-level rise of 0.8 metres by 2100, up from the 0.3 metre increase assumed in the 2002 plan it is replacing.

However, the plan states that these assumptions will be reviewed if the IPCC revises its estimates of sea-level rise trends or if a national intergovernmental agreement or policy on sea-level rise or storm intensity is developed.

The identification process the state government used to map at-risk areas also assumes a 10% increase in maximum cyclone intensity.

A sign of the times

A sign at the anti-Carbon Tax rally in Canberra stated: “My Mom is cold”. At the rally for Climate action, there was a sign stating: “My Mom is Hot”

04 April, 2011


Tomorrow I start a new job. It is a six week contract position with a Water Utility.

For the past two years, I have been a stay at home Dad by day.

In the arvos/evening, I have worked in a menial role, as a labourer, serving my community.

I run Sustainability Education in my spare time.

I am happy.

I hope that I am still happy tomorrow.

Sustainable Business Weekly QLD Edition [Biodiversity, Stradbroke, Water, Power, Gas]

The Society of Sustainability & Environmental Engineering (SSEE) Have a QnA forum scheduled for 24 May 2011 with a presentation on Electric Vehicles (EV’s), followed by a Panel discussion on roads, rail, rates, rides etc…

A subsequent QnA forum will consider the vulnerability and sustainability of our industrial food system.

ASBG are still negotiating the next round of Environmental Management Practitioner’s Workshops, Safety Management Workshops (including changes to Dangerous Goods labelling).

When the details become available, ASBG will help unpack & explain the implications of a Carbon Price for businesses.

Biodiversity Strategy

The Queensland Government is seeking feedback on Building Nature’s Resilience: A Draft Biodiversity Strategy for Queensland its plan for conserving biodiversity over the next 10 years.

The plan places nature's resilience at the centre of the state’s conservation efforts and attempts to recognise the critical role of all Queenslanders in delivering real change to biodiversity.

The strategy has been developed in draft to provide an opportunity for all interested parties to have their say about the future of Queensland’s natural environment.
While key stakeholders were engaged throughout its development, the opportunity now exists to further adapt the draft strategy to meet the needs of the community.
The main strategy document is accompanied by Protected Areas for the Future: Cornerstones for Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation which provides a deeper look into how an expanded protected area system will be developed.

Feedback can be provided on the Get Involved website or by email to biodiversity@derm.qld.gov.au.

Comments can also be posted to: Feedback on Queensland’s draft biodiversity strategy, Biodiversity Integration Unit, Department of Environment and Resource Management, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane QLD 4001.
For further enquiries phone 13 74 68 (13QGOV).

Due to the recent natural disasters the consultation period has now been extended until 8 April 2011.

Stradbroke Island

ASBG member Sibelco Australia (formerly known as Unimin) has taken out full page ads in the Courier-Mail depicting Premier Anna Bligh and Honourable Kate Jones (minister for Environment & Resource Management) sitting on a sand dune that used to be a sand mine.

For better or for worse, the Queensland State Government has brought forward the timetable for the cessation of sand mining on Stradbroke Island. Whilst it might seem like a good idea to declare another National Park on Stradbroke Island, it should be noted that many of our National Parks are poorly managed & are home to feral fauna & noxious flora.

While there are many examples of mining companies who have not been good stewards of the land, there are also many examples of environmental management & rehabilitation by responsible mining companies. Sibelco encourage your feedback and invite you to use the 'Questions and Comments' link.

Can Do’s Water policy

The LNP’s Candidate for the Seat of Ashgrove in the (yet to be announced) Queensland State Election is now writing the State Opposition’s policies for them.
If elected in Ashgrove, Campbell Newman is committing the LNP to amalgamate the five bulk water (bodies) that were set up, save all the money in the administrative costs.

Can-Do Campbell wants to write off the non-performing assets, & believes Queenslanders should repay the debt for these water assets over a 40-year period, not a 20-year period

Poles & Wires push up Power Prices

A recent update paper from the Australian Government's climate change advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut, has confirmed that renewable energy is not the major culprit in electricity price rises and acknowledges its increasingly important role in distributed generation.

The notion that renewable energy sources such as solar power substantially drive up electricity prices is a bandwagon that some corners of the media have been happy to jump on and stay on, even while much has been published to bust that myth.

Professor Ross Garnaut has weighed in on the argument in his latest Climate Change Review Update, published last week.

The paper states recent electricity price increases have mainly been driven by increases in the costs of transmission and distribution; an issue that Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, warned of in March last year.

Coal Seam Gas

This week there was an escalation of tension between farmers and British Gas at Tara, west of Brisbane.

Environmental Campaigner – Drew Hutton was arrested by police for blockading British Gas workers, attempting to construct a pipeline.