NSW & VIC lawyers join forces to save the iconic Flinders Ranges

The William Light Foundation (WLF) is pleased to announce the recent support of the NSW Environment Defenders Office (EDO), now working with our Victorian legal team, Clemens Haskin Legal. Leigh Creek Energy (LCK) funded by China New Energy awaits final flaring approval by new Energy & Mining Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan, indicated as a given despite vehement local community opposition to the project.

The NSW EDO has now requested the Federal Minister Josh Frydenberg call in the controversial Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project to the Expert Scientific Panel regarding the significant impact this project is likely to have on the sensitive environment of the Flinders Ranges.

The request comes amid a recent storm of protests and letters to the SA Mining & Energy Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan, who has approved the project EIR and SEO, despite the global and national evidence highlighting the dangerous history of UCG.

Hydrogeologists, Associate Professor Gavin Mudd and Dr Matthew Currell, warn of the dangers inherent in the LCK EIR:

“The EIR states that the proposed demonstration site is within 100 metres of a fault… Why is 100 metres judged a ‘safe’ distance for UCG activities from such faults?

“If there is a well fault or failure during operations, the consequences could be very difficult to manage and/or remediate in time to prevent gas or fluid migration…Similarly, the monitoring plan for groundwater, soil gas and ambient air quality monitoring is in our view poorly developed.”

In the wake of the multiple findings of criminal wilful negligence in the Queensland trial against Linc Energy, the Minister’s approval of this dirty and dangerous technology to South Australia is startling to communities of the Flinders Ranges. The reliance of the Minister’s Department upon ex Linc Energy hydrogeologist, Dr Gary Love as an expert witness does nothing to allay the fears of the communities.

Leigh Creek resident Carrie-Ann Smith queried Minister Pellekaan this week after he denied seeing the critical independent hydrogeological evidence (quoted above) provided to government in mid April:

‘I am left to choose one of two options; either you are purposefully pretending to be ignorant of the facts or you are extremely lazy, disorganised and negligent.’

Such has been the magnitude of flaws and errors in the community consultation process under the PGE Act 2000, WLF has referred a host of serious matters to the state Ombudsman’s Office and Office of Public Integrity. Their concern is most appreciated and we await their decision as to whether to proceed with investigations into the controversial history of the company and the alarming irregularities in the SA government administration of the approval process. The Minister’s conduct and regular misrepresentations to the communities are also under the review of the Premiers Office, which has been requested to dismiss or set aside the Minister based on multiple breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and associated laws.

This reckless application is regarded as an unlawful assault upon the wellbeing of the Flinders Ranges communities and environment. It is hoped the SA Greens will receive enough support in parliament to have this hideous technology permanently banned in the state and for urgent enquiry into the failings of the PGE Act 2000 and related legislation.

As well as legal counsel assisting, the WLF wishes to thank the communities, the Adnyamathanha elders, the SA Greens, the Conservation Council SA, the Wilderness Society, the Sunrise Project and other friends that have supported the campaign.

End release.

Media contact: Nigel Carney 0491 280 307


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