Feds keep control of “water trigger” to stop CSG projects

A COALITION attempt to give future federal governments the power to hand "water trigger" powers for coal seam gas projects back to states has been thwarted in the Senate.

The bill to amend the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, making water a trigger for Federal Government intervention in coal and CSG approvals, was still being debated in the Senate on Tuesday after two days of debate.

While the Coalition supports the water trigger, it opposes an amendment independent MP Tony Windsor attached to the bill in the lower house preventing the Commonwealth from handing decision-making powers back to the states.

An amendment moved by Coalition Senator Simon Birmingham, that would have effectively knocked out Mr Windsor's amendment, was defeated 34-28 on Monday night.

A host of Coalition senators rose to their feet to oppose Mr Windsor's amendment, arguing a regulatory impact statement was needed to examine its costs and effects on the CSG and coal industries.

Coalition senators also claimed the move was unnecessary considering an independent scientific committee had been established to examine CSG and coal development applications.

Senator Birmingham said the Windsor amendment would make it difficult for the Coalition to deliver on its promise, made in April last year, to make the states and territories a "one-stop shop" for environmental approvals.

"The Coalition is gravely concerned by the government's decision to adopt measures and to support amendments that tie their hands and tie the hands of future governments if they want to improve the efficiency of the EPBC Act, if they want to ensure that the duplication that occurs in assessments and approvals at Commonwealth and state level is minimised as much as possible," Senator Birmingham said.

"We think it is an outrage, to be frank, that the government have supported amendments that not only limit the use of these powers but fly in the face of what the government themselves had said they thought should be undertaken less than a year ago."

The Greens failed in their attempt to have the water trigger extended to shale gas developments.

Three remaining Greens' amendments, including one giving landholders the right to "lock out" CSG companies, were yet to be voted on.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters said Labor's environmental credentials were on the line.

"If Labor does not support these amendments, it will not have a shed of environmental legacy to leave before going to the election," Senator Waters said.

"The Coalition are using every opportunity to filibuster on the bill, but Greens are determined to see the bill both passed and improved with our amendments."

A final vote on the water trigger legislation was expected on Tuesday night.



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