Adani back in court over North Galilee Water Scheme
On 16 March 2020, ACF lodged a case in the Federal Court against the Morrison Government, over its assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS). The case will be heard in the Federal Court on Tuesday 6 October 2020.
The NGWS is a proposed pipeline and water harvesting infrastructure that would enable Adani to pump up to 12.5 billion litres of water per year from the Suttor River to the Carmichael coal mine, to wash coal and suppress dust at the mine site.
The basis of ACF’s case is that the Morrison Government made an error of law when it decided not to apply the ‘water trigger’ to the assessment of the NGWS. The water trigger is a feature of our national environment laws, designed to comprehensively assess the impacts of large coal mine developments and coal seam gas projects on water aquifers and rivers.
After ACF launched similar legal action against the federal government in 2018, the government conceded it had not considered thousands of public comments as part of the NGWS assessment process. This meant the federal government had to re-open public comments and consider the public’s submissions when deciding whether to apply the water trigger. Despite thousands of public comments, the government again determined that the impact of Adani’s NGWS on water did not need to be assessed.
In the government’s view, the water trigger only applies to projects that involve the physical extraction of coal. While the NGWS will supply water for exclusive use at the Carmichael coal mine, because the pipeline scheme does not, in and of itself, propose to extract coal, the government argues the water trigger does not apply.
This very narrow reading of the requirements to apply the water trigger could encourage mining and gas companies to ‘split up’ the assessment of their projects to avoid scrutiny.
This means that water pipelines, which are built for the sole purpose of providing water to coal mines would not be scrutinised for their impacts on water. Water pipelines are essential infrastructure for coal mines and the water trigger exists to scrutinise impacts on water from coal mines.
With over 67% of Queensland officially in drought, rainfall patterns changing and drought becoming longer and more frequent as a result of climate change, scrutiny of how big coal mining projects impact on Queensland’s precious water is needed more than ever.
However, the Federal government’s position is to allow massive water infrastructure projects for coal mines to not be scrutinised for their impacts on water, even when they plan to suck up 12.5 billion litres of water a year, just to wash dirty coal and suppress dust.
ACF’s case is challenging the Federal government’s decision not to apply the water trigger to Adani’s NGWS pipeline. Big mining corporations cannot be trusted to put our environment ahead of their profits, which is why it is so important that the water trigger is applied to projects like Adani’s NGWS.
If ACF wins the case, it will set a new legal precedent that essential infrastructure for coal mines and CSG projects must be assessed under the water trigger. While the case proceeds Adani can not commence work on its water guzzling pipeline that will need to be constructed before coal mining can commence.
The environmental assessment of the Adani’s NGWS pipeline cannot be completed until the court hands down its judgement on whether the federal government should have applied the water trigger. The court case and outstanding environmental assessment of Adani’s NGWS pipeline is just one of several hurdles Adani are facing before their coal mine is operational.
Adani are struggling to secure the insurance needed for the coal project and insurers are blacklisting thermal coal projects at increasingly rapid rates. Adani’s coal port is drowning in debt and its investors are fleeing thermal coal. Millions of Australian's remain opposed to the project as coal continues to increasingly become a financial and social liability for companies that associate with it.
Adani’s Carmichael coal project remains a massive white elephant. The Adani group is burning money from profitable companies in the conglomerate to prop up a coal project that will never be profitable. Wangan and Jagalingou people are continuing to actively resist Adani’s coal project and have recently escalated with the Standing our Ground campaign protesting on the site of the mine.
Whatever the result of ACFs legal challenge Adani still face many hurdles and our movement will continue to oppose their climate wrecking coal mine and do whatever it takes to #StopAdani.