Monday, October 29, 2007

Australian dam proponents try an end run around environmental impact statement

Public given six weeks to analyze 1600-page environmental impact statement, technical reports delayed, public charged exhorbitant fees.

Traveston Dam opponents have asked for an extra two months to analyse the 1600-page Environment Impact Statement released for public comment just over a week ago.

Kevin Ingersole, from the Save the Mary River Coordinating Group, said it had taken more than a week to obtain the EIS and accompanying technical reports and the six-week time frame for submissions was absurd.

Mr Ingersole said the government had devoted almost a year to process but had been slow to provide the documents and then expected the public to respond with lightning speed.

“It’s just part of the ongoing game trying to smash the will of the community,’’ Mr Ingersole said.

“I have written to the Coordinator General and said ‘since this is a multi-billion dollar project and the reports run to a couple of thousand pages and the government has been working on this for about a year, I think it’s unreasonable that we’ve been given six weeks to examine it’.

“We have asked for an extension until February 1.’’

Mr Ingersole was also furious that the government was charging $150 for the EIS and a further $300 for the technical reports, claiming the expense would be a significant deterrent for many organisations and individuals.

Several community groups in the region have expressed the same view, claiming the cost and the six-week time frame were outrageous.

Keryn Jones, from the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, said she believed it was a deliberate ploy to prevent the EIS from receiving the scrutiny it deserved.

“They are bombarding us with so much information it’s impossible for us to analyse it in the time they have allowed,’’ Ms Jones said.

“They know community groups don’t have the resources to give this proper scrutiny, let alone individuals, and who can afford the cost?

“They have made it as difficult as they can for us to assess it.’’

*(Manipulation of Environmental Impact Statements is not unique in these cases: False Environmental Impact Statements induce Regional Environment Commission to Implement Fines. Pacific Hydro of Australia is part owner in the La Higuera Project on the Tinguiririca River.)

Here is the full article.