© Dean Sewell / Greenpeace
Last week, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told Queensland Parliament “the government will not do anything to in any way degrade the feed water coming down the Fitzroy for their water supply. We will not do that.” The same day, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney introduced new laws that would do just that.
On Monday, Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell told the media they had the wrong end of the stick –new laws would not allow coal companies to release their old flood water.
Today, we reveal that’s not the case.
There are 280,000 megalitres of polluted water sitting in coal mine pits in central Queensland, left there from heavy rain seasons in the last few years. That’s the equivalent of 100,000 Olympic swimming pools of water. Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has introduced legislation that will allow coal companies to get an exemption from their pollution limits and dump this polluted water into Queensland’s rivers. The laws will also give the environmental protection agency just 24 hours to respond after a coal company asks to release its polluted water, and no opportunity for the public to challenge.
© Dean Sewell / Greenpeace
Over the past two years, rather than treating the polluted water so that it is safe for people and the environment, the coal industry has lobbied the Queensland Government to overturn environmental protection laws to give them a cheap and easy way out of their problems.
If these laws go ahead, water sitting in the bottom of coal mines which has accumulated toxins, including salt and metals, could be sent down river to graziers, towns, the city of Rockhampton and the Great Barrier Reef.
The laws do not limit these powers to emergency situations – so there’s nothing to stop the companies and the Queensland Government using them to wash this dirty water off their hands, into the drinking water catchment of Rockhampton and ultimately into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
On 17 October 2012, Environment Minister Andrew Powell admitted he is "approached on a daily basis” by coal mining companies wanting to release water. In just a few weeks, powers to let them do that might be law in Queensland.
The Queensland Government has heard loud and clear what the coal industry wants. It’s time they hear what Australians want – protection for our drinking water, our river systems and the Great Barrier Reef.
TAKE ACTION: Tell Premier Newman to safeguard our drinking water and the Great Barrier Reef from dirty coal water.
 Campbell Newman. Answer to Questions Without Notice, Queensland Parliament Hansard. 1 November 2012.
 Economic Development Bill 2012. See pages 151-155.