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Water contamination worries spike after Springvale coal mine approval

The NSW Government has boldly moved to amend legislation in order to nullify a court decision against the extension of the Springvale coal mine.

The NSW Court of Appeals initially ruled against the extension in August due to a lack of data on water contamination impacts. However, the government claims that the coal mine’s contribution to energy production is too important to be halted, despite the planned extension being rejected by judiciary.

In a performance echoing Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison’s stunt in February, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts brought a large piece of coal into Question Time while discussing the bill that aimed to ensure continued coal supplies to the nearby Mount Piper power plant.

"This amazing piece of black rock keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter, it produces power to power electric motor vehicles," Roberts said.

"Indeed, it lights our schools, it lights our police stations. In fact, every minute of every day it's saving people's lives in hospitals.”

The group responsible for challenging the 2015 approval of the Springvale mine extension – 4nature – have condemned the rushed bill.

President of 4nature Andrew Cox told SMH: "Not only does the bill end the final stage of the court process for the Springvale mine, but for all developments in the drinking water catchment it overrides the important principle of continuous improvement for polluters."

"Whoever gets in first can keep polluting,” he said.

Environmental Defender's Office NSW Principal Solicitor Elaine Johnson said the bill would "seriously weaken the laws that protect Sydney's catchment".

"This is not a reasonable or rational response to a court case that concerns an extension of a single coal mine. If the bill is passed, current pollution levels in Sydney's drinking water catchment will be essentially frozen in time,” she said.

"There are recognised threats to water quality in the Sydney drinking water catchment and the significant cause of those threats is the mining industry.”

Coal mining in NSW has been found to having a cumulative and possible accelerated impact on water flows and quality, with salt and nitrogen contamination levels also on the rise.

Greens energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said the government is sneaking through laws that seriously damage ecological protection.

"The Sydney Drinking Water Catchment is a huge area of NSW, stretching from the Snowy Mountains to the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra," he said.

"A perverse outcome of the legislation is that it will penalise new environmentally sensitive development over older more polluting developments.”