Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Conservationists call for Federal Environmental Impact Assessment on cloud seeding proposal

Conservationists have asked the Federal Minister for the Environment, Senator Dr David Kemp, to call in the proposed Snowy Hydro cloud seeding experiment and ensure that it is subjected to environmental impact assessment. Unless Dr Kemp acts there will be no due process for environmental assessment. The experiment is being fast tracked through the NSW parliament, with the subjugation of six environmental laws, and will take place in Kosciuszko National Park, in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the nation ñ the Main Range.

"Senator Kemp should use his powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC Act) to require Snowy Hydro Ltd to prepare an environmental impact statement," said Keith Muir director of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.

"The Commonwealth is part owner of Snowy Hydro and has a responsibility to protect nationally endangered species and RAMSAR wetlands. Both are threatened by this proposal. There is a real risk that precipitation from cloud seeding at the lower altitudes could fall as rain, reducing rather than enhancing snow cover.

"Snow cover provides temperature stability to snow dependent species and loss of cover would lead to drastic and lethal temperature variations for nationally endangered species such as the Mountain Pygmy Possum. The Southern Corroboree Frog, listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, may also be affected, as reduced snow cover would allow Sphagnum moss to grow more prolifically and cover the pools needed by the frog; as well as exposing tadpoles to sub-zero temperatures," Mr Muir said. "The trial could also lead to wide ranging impacts on the aquatic systems of the Park, including Blue Lake and its environs, listed under the RAMSAR Convention as a wetland of international significance. The aerial release of silver will result in its accumulation in the environment. Silver, which can be incorporated into, or absorbed onto, aquatic plants and animals is one of the most toxic metals to freshwater aquatic micro-organisms, the most sensitive being phtyoplankton and the embryos and larvae of animals, including tadpoles.

"Snowy Hydro has drafted legislation that has been accepted in a modified form by the Carr Government and, if passed, would prevent the operation of mandatory environmental impact assessment and review processes, including species impact statements. Snowy Hydro is unlikely to seek advice or make a referral under the EPBC Act.

"There is a likelihood that nationally endangered species could be at risk from this experiment, and Minister Kemp is obliged to apply the precautionary principle when applying the EPBC Act, so we consider that the Snowy Precipitation Enhancement Trial should be called in by the Minister and Snowy Hydro obliged to prepare a Federal environmental impact assessment."

For more information contact: Keith Muir, (02) 9261 2400 (wk) or 9550 3615 (ah)