Author Archives: A.

Simone Marsh’s expose of the Corrupt birth of the LNG industry in Qld

Source:
https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/whistle-blower-simone-marshs-new-expos-the-corrupt-birth-of-the-queensland-gas-industry,8547 downloaded 8/1/16.
[editors note: the original article included a number of Twitter grabs and videos which have been removed in the interests of brevity]

Courageous whistle-blower, Simone Marsh, shines a further spotlight into the murky and corrupt relationship between the Queensland gas industry and the politicians who are supposed to serve the interests of the public.

PETER GARRETT'S recent memoir Big Blue Sky has offered further insight into the entry of the Queensland CSG-LNG export industry in 2010.

Garrett, who at that time was the federal environment minister, had responsibility for decisions under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). Referring to the British Gas (QGC) and Santos CSG-LNG projects, Garrett states that one of his final decisions was actually a non-decision.

According to Garrett, despite unambiguous advice from Geosciences Australia regarding inadequate assessment of groundwater impacts on the Great Artesian Basin, intense pressure was applied. Federal treasurer Wayne Swan and resources minister Martin Ferguson had been "acutely focused on the decision".

In Beijing on 24 March 2010, Ferguson witnessed the signing of the sales contract between the BG Group chief executive, Frank Chapman (now Sir Frank), and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) president, Fu Chengyu. Other witnesses at the ceremony included the Duke of York, Prince Andrew and the Vice Minister of China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), Lui Qi. Days earlier, on 12 March 2010, BG Group’s Frank Chapman, Catherine Tanna and Rob Millhouse had been invited guests of Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Deputy Premier Paul Lucas — at the government box at Suncorp stadium in Brisbane. Queensland’s Under-Treasurer, Gerard Bradley, and wife Imelda Bradley (Director of Special Projects at the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General) were also invited. Paul Lucas later (February 2011) moved into the position of Attorney-General of Queensland.

In his memoir, Garrett questions whether the Federal Attorney-General’s department had been monitoring his activities during 2010. Not long after Garrett’s "non-decision", he was moved out of the environment portfolio. Garrett had suspected that Swan wanted him out. Tony Burke was moved into the portfolio in Julia Gillard’s second ministry. Within a matter of weeks (22 October 2010), Burke approved the first two east coast CSG-LNG projects. Five months later (March 2011) Wayne Swan appointed BG Group’s Catherine Tanna to the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Garrett’s memoir adds weight to evidence given by me to a federal Senate Inquiry in 2014. Amongst one of several documents initially redacted by certain members of the Senate Select Committee, is an email sent to Queensland treasurer Andrew Fraser on 12 May 2010. The one-page email from Ian Fletcher, then Queensland director-general of the department responsible for issuing petroleum permits, outlines the status of QGC’s environmental impact assessment.

According to Fletcher, QGC’s David Maxwell claimed QGC were unable to provide "detailed engineering data for construction”. Presumably the missing detail would have shown the location of gas field infrastructure. Hence, the gas company had a major legal problem, as the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (QLD) required location information in order to undertake environmental impact assessments and approval decisions.

In fact, many elements were missing, including baseline studies describing existing environmental values (another legal requirement); however these were not mentioned in Fletcher’s email. Multiple CSG-LNG companies were lining up for approvals in the same leaky boats.

QGC’s David Maxwell had been an invited guest of Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser at the government box at the stadium a few months earlier (19 September 2009).

Fletcher outlines QGC’s proposal to appear in front of an LNG Committee to explain its position (i.e. problems following legal requirements) and suggests the proposal represents 'a degree of constitutional innovation'. Fletcher cautions: 'The LNG Committee as a Court of Star Chamber?'

The Coordinator-General forwarded Fletcher’s email to his deputies and assistant. The Assistant Coordinator-General forwarded the email onto my supervisors with the warning: ‘Under pressure!’

Santos’s Rick Wilkinson (whom later moved across to industry group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association - APPEA) and Santos’ James Purtill (whom has now returned to Queensland Government – as director general of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) – from where he came) were invited guests of Treasurer Andrew Fraser at the government box at the stadium on 14 May 2010, i.e. two days after the "constitutional innovation" email. The Queensland Law Society President was also invited.

Within days of Fletcher’s email (and presumably after QGC’s presentation to the LNG Committee), I was instructed to finalise sections of the Coordinator-General’s report for the Santos and QGC projects. I was not permitted to speak with the Coordinator-General, and draft text was altered and deleted without consultation. The Coordinator-General’s final conditions enabled gas field information to be submitted prior to construction, i.e. after the legislated assessment process. The rule of law had been thrown out on George Street.

People and events surrounding CSG appear to exist in a twilight zone. Ian Fletcher’s intriguing work history includes high-level British government roles. Fletcher worked as a director at UK Trade and Investment, where he worked with the Duke of York. The timing of his Queensland appointment is fascinating, coincidentally synchronising with BG Group entry. By late 2011, Fletcher had departed Queensland, to head the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) i.e. New Zealand’s spy agency.

Queensland executive officers copied into Fletcher's constitutional innovation email:

Colin Jensen — Coordinator-General and Director-General of the Department of Infrastructure and Planning. Jensen resigned after signing off the QGC project and was appointed to a lucrative position as CEO of Brisbane City Council. Campbell Newman was Lord Mayor at the time.

John Bradley — Director-General of the environment department and subsequently Director-General of Premier and Cabinet. Bradley later received a substantial payout (approximately $1M) from the Newman government and became CEO of the Energy Networks Association - the national lobby group for gas and electricity transmitters.

Mal Hellmuth — General Manager LNG Industry Unit within Ian Fletcher’s department (DEEDI).

Dan Hunt — Associate Director-General of Fletcher’s department (DEEDI), was later appointed by the Newman government as Director-General of the Department of Energy and Water Supply.

Mark Bermingham — Deputy Director-General of Fletcher’s department (DEEDI) later offered another position by the Newman government.

It is likely the Under-Treasurer, Gerard Bradley, received a copy of Fletcher’s email. Gerard Bradley later received a substantial payout (approximately $706K) from the Newman government, and was subsequently appointed, by the Newman government, as Chairman of Queensland Treasury Corporation — a government owned corporation. Gerard Bradley’s wife, Imelda Bradley remained within the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (Queensland).

So the story of the setting up of the Queensland CSG/LNG industry is somewhat like former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to prove he has renounced his British citizenship before running as an MP, leaving us still unable to learn if he was even legally able to become an MP let alone prime minister.

Similarly here, under time pressure, senior bureaucrats and politicians pulled strings and shifted guidelines and rules to get the industry in place before the “drop dead” date it was allowed.

Thus, the Queensland gas industry was set up in corrupt fashion, and continues to operate in exactly that fashion to this day.

Simone Marsh was a former analyst with the Queensland Co-ordinator General, whose role included authoring a report on the environmental effects of the proposed LNG industry. Following the filing of the report in June 2010, she walked out of her job and was not heard of again in the media until she testified at the Queensland government parliamentary inquiry into Queensland government administration of Commonwealth government affairs in November last year.

QGC fined for LNG flare smoke incident on Curtis Island

 Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/qgc-fined-over-lng-flare-smoke-curtis-island/2816977/

QGC fined for LNG flare smoke incident on Curtis Island

23rd Oct 2015 10:50 AM

QGC has been fined $8538 for causing an environmental nuisance after a flare released a plume of black smoke at its Curtis Island LNG plant.

An infringement notice was issued to QGC following EHP's investigation into the release of smoke on March 10 from a flare near Gladstone.

Subsequent black smoke events are still being investigated.

Gas flares are designed to provide a safe means of dealing with gas that cannot be used in the process and is authorised under conditions in QGC's Environmental Authority.

The State Government operates a network of seven air quality monitoring stations across the Gladstone region to monitor contaminant levels at sensitive places such as residences, and measurements during the black smoke events have not exceeded the air quality standard.

Live air monitoring data is available online at the Department of Environmental and Heritage Protection website.

Any member of the community concerned about flares are encouraged to contact the department's pollution hotline on 1300 130 3721300 130 372.

Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines

Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/letter-qgc-flare-emissions-guidelines/2741563/#.Vc7k8xs4czI.mailto

Opinion
Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines
Jeff Baillie, QGC | 15th Aug 2015 6:05 AM

Letter to the editor from Jeff Baillie, deputy asset manager midstream, QGC:

COVERAGE of allegations raised by the Gladstone Conservation Council in relation to flaring at our Curtis Island plant has disregarded the evidence and expertise of those people best positioned to manage this matter.

Reporting on the composition of our flare commenced with the approved QCLNG Environmental Impact Statement.

It has continued with the regulator, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, as appropriate under our Environmental Authority and as initial scientific studies are reviewed and updated.

We have also been transparent about the composition of the black smoke sometimes emitted in our flares through information freely available to the community online and in personal briefings to various community-based organisations.

The truth is, the flare flow meters are just one part of a bigger network of technological resources and systems available to our highly trained team of environmental scientists in monitoring and managing our flaring activity.

The independent environmental assessment conducted earlier this year and referenced in your article, found that even under worst-case scenarios, the ground-level concentrations of emissions are well within relevant air quality objectives set by government.

The ambient air monitors positioned around the Gladstone region and managed by the department show no impact on the overall air quality in the region associated with emissions from the QCLNG plant.

Gladstone residents can be confident in these findings.

They can also be confident and proud that in establishing our world's first plant to produce LNG from natural gas in coal seams, we have used world-leading technology.

I assure you, the safe operation of the LNG plant is our highest priority. That includes ensuring the safety of the Gladstone community.

We encourage people with any concerns to call us free on 1800 030 443 FREE, email us at community@qgc.com.au or drop in to our office at 72 Goondoon St.

Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Original Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/meters-monitoring-flares-not-fully-functional-repo/2740500/

Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Helen Spelitis | 14th Aug 2015 6:26 AM

BLACK SMOKE: An RTI document obtained by GREAN shows equipment used to monitor contents of flare smoke and gas flow was not fully operational between December 2014 and April this year.

FLARE flow meters at the QCLNG plant on Curtis Island, Gladstone had "potential defects" and couldn't be relied on for five months up to April this year, an official information request reveals.

The problems with the flare flow meters coincide with the most significant visible flaring activity of recent times.

The monitoring meters check for health and environment impacts, as well as the plant's productivity.

>> Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines

While government officials have in the past said they do not have any specific health concerns in relation to flare emissions, the fault has alarmed Gladstone green groups.

Gladstone Conservation Council president Jan Arens, who has a background in engineering and industry, said without the flow meters there was no way of being sure what chemicals were being released into the atmosphere.

"It feels as though concerns raised by the community have simply been pushed aside," Mr Arens said.

"If they've got nothing to hide, then produce the science. Tell us exactly what is in the black smoke."

On April 9 the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection ordered QGC to conduct an evaluation into flare emissions.

The company's fact sheet says the emissions are mostly carbon dioxide.

But the report, within the documents obtained under Right to Information, states the key pollutants at the QCLNG plants include methane, ethylene, acetylene, propane and propylene.

Mr Arens has repeatedly asked QGC to provide scientific data of black smoke samples including details on sampling, test methods and results.

So far his request has been denied.

The Environment Department confirmed it was aware the flow meters weren't working as designed.

However, the meters aren't a requirement under the Environmental Authority. Instead, the department relies on seven ambient air monitors to monitor air quality.

That is exactly the issue Gladstone Region Environmental Advisory Network has raised this week when it formally asked Gladstone Regional Council to approach State Government.

It says those air monitors and not sufficient.

The council is expected to make a decision during their meeting next Tuesday.

Letter to the Editor – C. Watson

Letter to the Editor
Gladstone Observer

With due respect to Noël Bowley, I wish to reply to his letter to the Editor on Monday 25th August.

Noel I think the important part of your letter inferred that you had worked for the Ports Corporation for 37 years and retired a decade ago. Unfortunately the Company you worked for and the one that existed during this fiasco are entirely different and while dredging has been carried out in Gladstone Harbour numerous times the difference this time is twofold, 1. The amount of dredge spoil and 2. The fact that this time they backhoe dredged mud which contained high levels of acid sulphate material.

The GBRMPAs own studies have recently discovered that the dredge spoil can actually travel up to 80 kilometres. One thing Ebony did not point out is that 2 members of the GBRMPA Board have financial interests in the Resources Industry. I find it very hard to believe they were not unduly influenced. In your position at the Gladstone Ports you had the relevant qualifications, don't you think that anyone sitting on the GBRMPA Board should have the correct qualifications?

Do you believe that all the people who spoke about the problems are all lying? Did the whistleblower of the problems with the bund wall lie and was his photographic evidence false?

I for one congratulation Ebony for having the courage to voice her opinion in our local paper. I know how difficult that can be.

I love Gladstone and Gladstone Harbour as much as you and unfortunately I believe you do not hide from the truth, no matter how difficult because if we do not acknowledge the past mistakes we will continue to make them. Yes we are an industrial city but wouldn't it have been nice if this latest rush had been done with the environment being the number one consideration. We could have been proudly showing off a model for what to do, not what not to do.

Cheryl Watson
South End

Reef dumping permit followed shortly after letter from Hunt

Reef dumping permit followed shortly after letter from Hunt

Source: http://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/Reef-dumping-permit-followed-after-hunt-letter/2316462/

Daniel Burdon | 12th Jul 2014 12:01 AM

ENVIRONMENT Minister Greg Hunt told the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve a controversial dredge spoil dumping proposal at Abbot Point just days before a permit was granted.

Documents released in answers to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice reveal Mr Hunt personally wrote to the authority just seven days before the authority approved the sea dumping permit.

Both Mr Hunt's previous approval and the authority's approval are already subject to court action, and both parties were remaining tight-lipped about the letter on Friday.

The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation project would involve dredging three million cubic metres of sediment to expand the coal port, with the spoil created to be dumped in an existing dumping area in the marine park.

Earlier draft permit assessments have previously shown the authority was concerned about potentially wide-ranging impacts from the dumping proposal, including on coral near Holbourne Island and Nares Rock and the heritage-listed WWII Catalina wreck.

But the authority's final approval documents have revealed publicly for the first time that Mr Hunt's letter was one of only two key "grounds" relied on for approving the sea dumping permit.

While the letter itself was not released to the Senate, the documents show Mr Hunt wrote to the authority on January 23 this year, days before the permit was approved on January 31.

"I wish to advise you under section 163(1)(a) of the EPBC Act, that (the port) has addressed all of the requirements for the loading and disposal of sediments at sea and therefore recommend that a permit should be granted under section 19 of the Sea Dumping Act," the document reads.

It is unclear why the letter was sent, as the documents show authority staff were already aware of the looming deadline for a decision, reporting "considerable time constraints have been experience in providing a comprehensive sea dumping assessment".

The documents show the only other grounds to approve the permit were that alternatives, such as a different dump site or land reclamation, "could be seen to be disproportionate in costs".

It also reveals many and varied grounds on which the permit could be refused, but wasn't, including a "lack of adequate information to determine the likely effects of the proposed disposal option".

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who asked the Question on Notice, said the documents showed that "that science was dictating a refusal, but it was approved after the Minister wrote the letter".

"My interpretation is that the Minister wrote what was an otherwise unnecessary letter - clearly this was a signal that the government expected the authority to approve it," she said.

"With the budget at that point in time hanging over everybody's head, and the Minster writing the letter, it is clear what the subtext was if it was not approved."

An authority spokeswoman said GBRMPA was unable to comment, due to existing court actions over the approval.

A port spokeswoman said it was "important to understand that dredging has not yet occurred" and there were a number of conditions to be met to "ensure that impacts are avoided and mitigated".

"Further, while modelling can provide guidance, it does not replace the knowledge and expertise of undertaking actual dredging campaigns," she said.

Questions put to Mr Hunt's office regarding the matter were unanswered at deadline on Friday.

Sediment and Turbidity Associated with Offshore Dredging Increase Coral Disease Prevalence on Nearby Reefs

Source: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0102498
Authors: F. Joseph Pollock, Joleah B. Lamb, Stuart N. Field, Scott F. Heron, Britta Schaffelke, George Shedrawi, David G. Bourne, Bette L. Willis
Published: July 16, 2014
•DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102498

Abstract:
In recent decades, coral reef ecosystems have declined to the extent that reefs are now threatened globally. While many water quality parameters have been proposed to contribute to reef declines, little evidence exists conclusively linking specific water quality parameters with increased disease prevalence in situ. Here we report evidence from in situ coral health surveys confirming that chronic exposure to dredging-associated sediment plumes significantly increase the prevalence of white syndromes, a devastating group of globally important coral diseases. Coral health surveys were conducted along a dredging-associated sediment plume gradient to assess the relationship between sedimentation, turbidity and coral health. Reefs exposed to the highest number of days under the sediment plume (296 to 347 days) had two-fold higher levels of disease, largely driven by a 2.5-fold increase in white syndromes, and a six-fold increase in other signs of compromised coral health relative to reefs with little or no plume exposure (0 to 9 days). Multivariate modeling and ordination incorporating sediment exposure level, coral community composition and cover, predation and multiple thermal stress indices provided further confirmation that sediment plume exposure level was the main driver of elevated disease and other compromised coral health indicators. This study provides the first evidence linking dredging-associated sedimentation and turbidity with elevated coral disease prevalence in situ. Our results may help to explain observed increases in global coral disease prevalence in recent decades and suggest that minimizing sedimentation and turbidity associated with coastal development will provide an important management tool for controlling coral disease epizootics.

See Also:
http://theconversation.com/dredge-spoil-linked-to-coral-disease-wa-study-shows-29265

Lying, thieving, greedy bastards

The following is a submission I made regarding the further expansion of the State Development Area in Gladstone in 2014.

Dear Sirs,
You may feel that since not many people turned up to the information sessions about the State Development Area changes, that no-one cares what you do.

This is not true. Many people have objected strenuously to this process over the years, and it has done them not one bit of good. Is it any wonder that most people have simply opted out of the process?

I am one of them, but I’ve decided to voice my thoughts on the whole process in a way which I hope you can understand. I’m going to put it very plainly. And when I say ‘You’ I am conflating government and fossil fuel corporations because I believe they are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.

You are lying, thieving bastards. You are greedy. You think that you can simply excise part of Australia and exempt it from due process, which is exactly what a State Development Area is. You think you can ride roughshod over a community, ruin an environment with impunity and take the money and run.

I am here to tell you that while the people of Central Queensland are slow to anger, when they are roused, they are a force to be reckoned with. Oh, we won’t be marching in the streets, have no fear of that, but you will find that your social licence has expired.

People, good people, have been leaving the area in droves. You will struggle to find the people you need, you will have to pay them double to stay there, and those people who will go anywhere for money are exactly the people who will leave at the drop of a hat.

And the good people who have left, who were forced to leave, are quietly agitating behind the scenes. You will find your finance is harder to get, your approvals much, much slower, and every act of environmental vandalism will be photographed and flashed around the world.

So go ahead, draw more lines on a map. Give with one hand as you take away with the other.

You will find that it will and has already backfired on you.

Kind Regards,
Anna Hitchcock

How to request a Statement of Reasons under the EPBC Act

This information is for all those people concerned and affected by certain decisions made by the Australian Minister for the Environment or his Department.

The design of the EPBC Act is to provide an environmental impact assessment process which allows for public consultation which is transparent to all stakeholders and interested persons. This means that at certain steps of the process where a decision has been made, persons can... request information from the Department of the Environment regarding that particular decision. This information is obtained by formally requesting a Statement of Reasons under Section 13 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 from the following e-mail address: epbc.referrals@environment.gov.au.

Any request should include a statement as to why the person is aggrieved in accordance with Section 487 of the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act has a broad definition of aggrieved persons and as such pretty much any person would be able to request a decision under the Act. Once the Department has received this request within 28 days of a decision, a Statement of Reasons is required to be prepared and given to the person within 28 days. The Department has produced a Policy Statement which outlines the decisions where a Statement of Reasons can be requested from the Department/Minister. This Policy Statement is at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/98c097c0-0325-4e3e-b203-685b84142ec2/files/epbc-act-policy-statements-reasons.docx or click here

Requesting Statements of Reasons is a simple process that is rarely used but would be an important mechanism for obtaining information by the general public or conservation groups. I would encourage all those that are concerned by any decision made by the current Minister and the Department to request formal statements outlining the reasons for particular decisions under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act.