An alliance of local groups from across Victoria will today formally ask what steps have been taken (if any) to deal with the health and environmental impacts of coal and coal seam gas projects.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have been lodged by each local group with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), asking for any documents that DPI considered before granting approvals for each exploration project, relating to the project’s potential health or environmental impacts.
“In the dozens of conversations we’ve had with concerned communities all over Victoria, we’ve heard one message repeatedly — people aren’t getting enough information,” said Michael Power, Law Reform Lawyer at the Environment Defenders Office (Victoria).
“The coal and coal seam gas industries can have potentially huge impacts on the environment and human health. People have a right to know what those impacts are, and to be given a real say in how they are dealt with. That’s what this request is about.”
Sarah Myhill, a farmer from Wonthaggi who made one of the requests, said “This action by local Gippslanders concerned about the many impacts of more invasive fossil fuel extraction is not happening in isolation. We are joining together with similar groups state wide to seek a fairer assessment of whether such mining is really in all our best interests.”
Harry van Moorst of the Western Region Environment Centre in Wyndham Vale, who also made a request, said “It is unfortunate that we need to use Freedom of Information laws to get this information. The system that licenses mining projects should be more transparent and inclusive of communities in the stages before exploration or mining licences are granted.”
A Parliamentary Inquiry recently recommended some changes to Victoria’s mining regime, including reforms to give communities more information about exploration and mining that affects them. It followed an EDO report which called for big changes to protect the environment and communities.
The Government has yet to respond to either report, or to set out their position on how the coal and coal seam gas mining regime will be reformed. They are expected to do so in the next 5 months.