26 May, 2012

Fast Track

Fast tracking Significant Projects

The Qld Government has started the fast tracking of significant projects and has granted significant project status to the Yarwun coal export terminal in Gladstone. This is a new paradigm with a Co-ordinator General with the unprecedented ability to fast track development.

The Qld Coordinator-General has also given the green light to Rio Tinto’s $1.45 billion South of the Embley bauxite mining extension on Cape York, but the project still needs Federal Government approval. 

Environmental groups such as the Wilderness Society say that the Qld Government's approval of a bauxite mine expansion on Cape York is at-odds with the World Heritage process. Environmental activists have slammed the change, saying it reduces the amount of time given to considering environmental impact or community input.

The project is still subject to Federal Government approval. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says he is concerned about the impact of extra shipping on the Great Barrier Reef & wants to make sure there is a proper environmental assessment.

The Qld Government has called on Mr Burke to detail how long he intended to delay the process and make a decision.

The following consultations provide an opportunity for the public to comment or make a submission on significant project proponents' environmental impact statements (EIS) and other initiatives:

·       Arrow LNG Plant                  28 May
·       Central Qld Rail Project        4 June
·       GasFields Commission        25 May
·       Nathan Dam and Pipelines   5 June
·       North Surat-Collingwood Coal Project            28 May
·       North Surat-Taroom Coal Project       28 May
·       Wongai Project                    12 June

Red Tape

One may recall that late last year, Federal Labor received the final report of Dr Allan Hawke’s review of the EPBC Act.  Amongst other things, this report recommended divesting responsibilities to the State Governments, with the action (RHETORIC) of cutting red tape & increasing certainty for business.  

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the cutting down the red tape will mean Qld can take full advantage of the resources boom.

Divesting of Coal Fired Power

The Qld Government has withdrawn its financial support for the Cloncurry Photo Voltaic Solar Farm to achieve savings for the state’s taxpayers of about $5.6 million.  Large-scale solar farms are proven technology and the Qld State Government believes it is up to the private sector to decide whether to invest in, build and operate such projects in Qld.

Should Premier Newman sell Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy to the private sector, for the same reasons that AGL has bought Loy Yang A in Victoria?

The purchase of Loy Yang A will make AGL the equal largest generator of electricity in the Australia.  Up until recently, AGL have pursued a strategy of developing the nation’s lowest carbon intensity in its energy assets, this purchase nearly triples its intensity.

Loy Yang A will act as a “cash cow” for the company, despite the introduction of a carbon price.  AGL propose to use the substantial cash flows to help fund its renewables investment, which it estimates at around $4-$5 billion to meet its share of the renewable energy target. It expects to meet 60-80% that capital cost itself. When one considers the transition from fossil fuels to renewables – taking the cash from an older asset like Stanwell & Tarong Power Stations & reinvesting it in renewable makes sense.

Government supports Surat Basin resource sector growth

The Minister for Natural Resources & Mines: Andrew Cripps has outlined the Qld Government’s plans to support economic growth in the Surat Basin Energy Resources Province.

The Qld Government are looking to the significant thermal coal and coal seam gas (CSG) resources in the Surat Basin to play a critical role in reining in Queensland’s $2.8b budget deficit and reducing the state’s unemployment to 4%.

Conversion of that CSG into liquefied natural gas (LNG) to export from Gladstone is set to make Qld one of the principal suppliers of LNG to the Asia-Pacific region. By 2018 Qld will be the third largest LNG exporter in the world.

Mr Cripps believes the State Government’s role is to strike a policy balance in regions like the Surat Basin that supports growth in the coal & gas sector, protects the environment and respects other land uses like agriculture.

The Minister emphasised however, that rapid growth in the Surat Basin, particularly in CSG production, is not without its challenges.

There is a need for CSG companies particularly to show a commitment to improving their relationship with the agricultural sector and securing the trust of the broader community,” he said.

The Qld Government’s newly established Gasfields Land and Water Commission will play a key role in ensuring CSG companies earn their social licence to operate by respecting landholders and the environment.

Mr Cripps said the introduction of Statutory Regional Plans, especially on the Darling Downs, should also ensure that controversy is replaced by clear planning. 

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