By Felicity Millner

The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke MP, is due to make a decision on whether to approve the new coal terminal at the port at Abbot Point, Queensland. The proposed coal terminal will have significant impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. It will require significant dredging. Increase in ship traffic will also create increased risks of accidents, and oil and coal spills into the Great Barrier Reef.

It will also facilitate the rapid expansion of Queensland’s coal industry including in the Gallillee Basin, which, if it goes ahead, will double Australia’s coal production and emissions from these projects alone are predicted to exceed the rest of Australia’s domestic emissions by 2020.

The way the rapid expansion of Queensland’s export coal industry looks set to proceed terrifies me. It seems set get all its approvals in the next few years, without an adequate environmental assessment of the long term impacts or the cumulative impacts, both on the reef and global climate change.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (the main piece of Federal environmental legislation) has the facility for strategic assessment, which allows a group of activities to be assessed together. This allows the need for such activities, as well as their cumulative environmental impacts, to be assessed. Minister Burke has announced a strategic assessment under the EPBC Act for port infrastructure, although he is set to approve Abbot Point before that process takes place. Abbot Point may become the world’s biggest coal terminal, so approving this terminal outside of the strategic assessment makes a mockery of the process.

I just sent Tony Burke MP an email asking him not to approve the Abbot Point coal terminal. If you are concerned, you should also contact the government in the next couple of weeks and let them know how you feel.

You can see the assessment documents for the Abbot Point coal terminal here: http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=6250