Abbot Point expansion decision delayed

The new Federal Environment Minister has delayed a decision on the Abbot Point coal expansion by more than four weeks, indicating more time is needed to properly assess the project.

Former Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke was set to make a decision on the project on July 9, but that has now been extended by more than a month.

In a statement, new minister Mark Butler said he needs more time to consider the project’s potential impacts.

"It is not unusual to have short extensions for the assessment of large and complex projects like this one," he said.

"The initial statutory timeframe for federal assessment applies equally to all projects, whether it's a small housing development or a larger project like this one."

Butler said a decision could be made before August 9 if he is satisfied with the information presented to him.

The $6.2 billion expansion of the coal port would see four additional coal terminals built; which would provide an extra annual capacity of 120 million tonnes and would support the developments in the Bowen, Surat, and Galilee Basins of Queensland.

Combined with other port expansions, this latest development would make Abbot Point one of the world’s largest coal ports, boasting seven terminals and a capacity of almost 300 million tonnes annually.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters welcomed the move by Butler to delay approval, ABC reported.

"He can now take the opportunity to get across the information and see that this will be a damaging proposal for the reef," she said.

"What's really important is that on the August 9 he says 'no' to this expansion.

"There's a proposal for three million cubic metres of dredging in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area and then dumping that sea bed right back into marine park waters.

"The sediment doesn't sit where it's placed, it can move."

Protest around the expansion has been consistent, with environmental groups concerned that dredging at the site will have widespread impacts.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Louise Matthiesson has previously called on the expansion to be dumped.

"It sounds very alarming the amount of mud stirred up by dredging is much greater than what we thought and the dredge plumes are spreading much further than we thought," Matthiesson said.

Matthiesson said the group was opposed to expanding coal ports in Queensland, and aim to draw attention to environmental issues.

"Our position, we are opposed to expanding coal export out of Abbot Point, and that includes opposing the dredging," she said.

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