Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG

DRIVERS returning home after the school holidays this Sunday will see hundreds of community protesters setting up placards opposing coal seam gas along 2000km of highways across Queensland and New South Wales, in an attempt to force the hand of NSW’s newly re-elected Liberal government to ban CSG.
Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG Pressure grows on NSW to ban CSG

Unless community concerns are heard and responded to, the NSW coal seam gas industry will keep running into road blocks. (Stop CSG Illawarra/AAP)

Anthony Barich

There will be protests at regular intervals along the Pacific Highway (Tweed to Newcastle), Buckets Way to Gloucester, the Newell Highway (Dubbo to the Queensland border), and from the NSW border to the Chinchilla CSG region in Queensland.

Mother of three Nicole Hunter of Coonabarabran in the NSW North West region, near the site of Santos’ planned Narrabri gas project in the Pilliga, says CSG threatens the region’s land, water, cultural heritage and communities. Last November she locked herself to a bulldozer in protest of Santos’ deforestation work for the CSG program in the Pilliga forest.

Santos’ Narrabri project was not affected by NSW’s freeze on new exploration licenses, and a spokesman told Energy News that the environmental impact statement was its “primary focus” and would be delivered soon. However, no timeframe was confirmed.

“Our decentralised action on Sunday is to remind the newly re-elected NSW government that its citizens across the state will not accept coal seam gas development,” Hunter said.

“It’s on the last day of the NSW and Queensland school holidays, so lots of drivers will see our message.

“We’re excited that community members from across NSW and QLD are now organising their own events. This protest has taken on a life of its own, which shows the breadth and depth of feeling on this issue.

“We believe this will be the longest highway demonstration ever held in Australia and so safety is a big priority for all volunteers.”

Santos’ Narrabri project covers about 98,000 hectares and field operations will take up less than 1% of the project area. All operations located in the Pilliga will be focused in an area specifically zoned by the government for natural gas development.

NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley had vowed to permanently ban CSG production in the Pilliga forest in the state’s northwest if he came to office, but he lost the election.

Foley said at the time that he would not cancel Santos’ exploration licence at Pilliga but would never grant it a production licence for its Narrabri project.

The state’s Liberal National coalition government has cancelled around a dozen exploration licenses granted under the former Labor government, including those relinquished by explorer Pangea Resources as unlikely to yield commercial reserves.

Premier Mike Baird said during the campaign that CSG would remain a big part of the economy and would form part of the overall solution.

Last November, the Baird government released its gas plan which adopted all the recommendations of an inquiry into the state’s CSG industry by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O'Kane.

The gas plan also followed the May 2014 suspension of Metgasco’s right to drill a controversial exploration well.

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