CSG assessment is a total farce, says advisor

A FORMER long-term advisor to the nation's industrial chemicals regulator has labelled the government's assessment of coal seam gas fluids a "total farce".

Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, a senior advisor with the environmental group National Toxics Network, made the comment on Sunday.

Dr Lloyd-Smith was the author of the 2012 report that prompted the assessment and spent nearly a decade on committees advising the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme.

She said the CSG chemicals project was supposed to inform the community, decision-makers and regulators dealing with the CSG industry.

"(But) with all the limitations in information, the lack of transparency in the process and close involvement of industry in the project, we have no faith it will help decision makers or the community," she said.

Dr Lloyd-Smith said the toxics network was first told the report would be released by the end of 2013, but "after two and a half years, the situation is a total farce and it has no credibility as it has no transparency".

"That was the original date we were told but two years later, nothing, except that the industry has drilled many more wells, people are getting sicker and air pollution increases - it's a disgrace and waste of money."

NICNAS director Dr Brian Richards had said the delays were partly due to recalculations of the "predicted environmental concentrations" of the chemicals used in CSG.

But Dr Lloyd-Smith said that was a "lame excuse and quite worrying".

"The calculations of PECs are part of the risk assessment game and while they depend on basic physico-chemical data they also need information on the distribution of the chemical; how much is used, how much is lost, how much volatilises or degrades, how much remains in the ground," she said.

"That is all information that is usually provided by the manufacturer, the industry associations and the chemical users who all have significant commercial interests in the outcome."

"One wonders whether the pro-industry interests are holding up the release in the hope that reworking the risk assessment, things will look better."

She said such risk assessments could be "as much the result of a political, industry or personal viewpoint as it is of the science".