In a win for the community and our clients, the Federal Court has upheld our client the Australian Conservation Foundation’s legal challenge to the approval process for Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS). 

Acting on behalf of the ACF, EDO lawyers argued that the Environment Minister should have applied the ‘water trigger’ to the scheme, which would see billions of litres of water per year sucked out of the Suttor River to service the Carmichael coal mine. 

Today the Federal Court agreed, finding that the minister’s decision not to apply the water trigger was unlawful.  

NGWS is Integral to Adani’s Plans

The North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) is a plan by Adani Infrastructure Pty Ltd (Adani) to extract 12.5 billion litres of water per year from Suttor River to service the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in central Queensland. 

The EPBC Act water trigger is designed to subject large coal mines and coal seam gas projects to more rigorous assessment for their impacts on surface and ground water.  

A decision of the Federal Environment Minister not to apply the water trigger to the NGWS was challenged in court by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), represented by Environmental Defenders Office. 

Today, the Federal Court handed down its decision, finding that the minister made an error in law not to apply the water trigger, meaning the NGWS is now set to undergo further assessment. 

“This is a welcome decision from the Federal Court, which has agreed with our client that the Federal Government has not applied the correct assessment pathway for this mine’s impacts on water,” said EDO Managing Lawyer Sean Ryan. 

“The water trigger exists to ensure that the impact of large mining projects on our precious water resources, is properly and thoroughly scrutinised before deciding whether the project should be given the green light. 

“The North Galilee Water Scheme is integral infrastructure for Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine, so it is right that it should be assessed under the water trigger. 

“Today’s decision confirms that coal mining developments cannot avoid facing water trigger assessment, even if their critical water infrastructure is a separate project.

“This is a win for the community which raised serious concerns about the minister’s decision not to apply the water trigger in this case.”

Photos credit: Coast and Country.

A Second Win Over NGWS 

This is our client ACF’s second successful challenge to the North Galilee Water Scheme assessment process. 

In July 2019, the Federal Government conceded it had failed to consider some of the thousands of valid public submissions about if, and how, Adani’s project should be assessed – in breach of the EPBC Act. 

It meant the assessment was re-opened for public comment and the minister was compelled to consider each submission. 

While welcome, the 2019 concession did not deal with the water trigger issue, prompting further legal action by EDO on behalf of ACF in 2020. 

Today’s decision means that the scheme will now face further EPBC Act scrutiny under the water trigger.

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