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Greens welcome belated commencement of ban on coal seam gas chemicals (BTEX)

The Greens have welcome the belated commencement of the Queensland Government’s ‘ban’ on BTEX, the carcinogenic chemical cocktail used in hydraulic fracturing during coal seam gas mining.

“It’s great to see such a rapid response to the Greens’ call a fortnight ago to commence the limitation on BTEX use, and to be in that position to deliver positive outcomes for Queenslanders worried about coal seam gas,” said Greens Senator for Queensland and spokesperson on Mining, Larissa Waters.

“Greens scrutiny of the Queensland government has led to the commencing of this limitation four months earlier than it would have, had it continued to have been neglected by the government*.

“BTEX has not been banned but rather upper limits placed on its use in hydraulic fracturing fluids, in accordance with relevant drinking water standards**.

“However, the Greens remain opposed to hydraulic fracturing given the dangers of creating connections between underground aquifers and the possibility of geological instability and subsidence,” said Senator Waters.

The Greens have consistently called for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining until there is a better understanding of the industry’s long term impacts on groundwater, farm land, the climate and threatened species.

On 22 July 2011, Senator Larissa Waters revealed that the government had not commenced the ban, despite the laws having passed the Queensland Parliament in October 2010. At that time, spokesperson for the appropriate Minister (for Employment, Economic Development and Innovation) incorrectly claimed that the ban had already commenced. A week later, the governor commenced of the ‘ban’ on 29 July and it was tabled on 2 August, with no publicity from the government.

*Pursuant to the Acts Interpretation Act 1954 (Qld), the BTEX ban would have commenced on 2 December 2011 without the Greens highlighting this inappropriate delay.

**The Environmental Protection Regulation (No.3) 2001 (Qld) was commenced on 29 July 2011, and sets the following limits on BTEX in fracking fluids in line with the standards set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for benzene and the Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council Guideline for toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene: for benzene – 1 part/billion; for ethylbenzene – 80 parts/billion, for toluene – 180 parts/billion, and for m-xylene – 75 parts/billion.

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