EDO has the legal tools and expertise to protect our fresh water from pollution and over-extraction.

In 2017, we successfully negotiated for important environmental conditions to be added to the approval of Santos’s GLNG Gas Field Development Project in the Surat Basin, Queensland.

Santos planned to develop 6,100 Coal Seam Gas (CSG) wells across about 1 million hectares of land in the basin. Over the project’s predicted life of more than 30 years, Santos proposed to extract up to 219 billion litres of water, with potential impacts on the Great Artesian Basin. 

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project outlined how Santos proposed to manage the used water, including to release it from the wells into surface water systems such as lakes and the stunning and environmentally important Dawson River .

The Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of the Western Downs Alliance challenged the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy’s approval of the project because it allowed millions of litres of CSG wastewater to be released without an assessment of the environmental impacts.

Australia’s environmental laws require that the Minister properly assess a major CSG project’s impacts on water resources (known as the water trigger). Western Downs Alliance argued that the Minister was incorrect in his view that it was not necessary to assess the impacts of releasing CSG water to surface waters as part of the project approval, and that as a result the approval was unlawful.

The case was scheduled to be heard by a Full Bench of three judges of the Federal Court in Brisbane on Monday 13 February 2017. However, in December 2016, the Minister and Santos agreed to amend the approval by adding important conditions. By taking legal action, the Alliance has ensured that the project is prohibited from discharging CSG waste water to any watercourse; and that any proposed release in the future must be assessed by the Minister.