The Government has issued its response to the Upper House inquiry that travelled around NSW last summer hearing community concerns about coal seam gas
It was billed as an inquiry that would strike a balance between the interests of coal seam gas companies, landholders, the environment and the state.
However, many of the 35 recommendations made by the Upper House inquiry into coal seam gas appear to have been overlooked by the Government in its response.
The committee called for more scientific data to be made publicly available, for the rights of landholders to be strengthened in negotiations with mining companies, and for stricter environmental controls to be placed on exploration and production licences.
Deputy chair of the committee and NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham says the Government has ignored the recommendations.
“It’s a re-hash of what the Government announced with its strategic regional land-use plans and it goes no way to addressing in full the very strong recommendations of the inquiry,” he said.
“Many of the elements of the inquiry remain unaddressed and it’s just another indication that this Government is green-lighting coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers and across NSW.”
Mr Buckingham says the Government has failed to release a review of the use of ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracturing) conducted by the NSW Chief Scientist despite a recommendation by the committee for greater transparency, particularly with regard to scientific analyses.
“We were called on by the Government to do baseline data analysis, to do analysis of fugitive emissions, all kinds of things were recommended; the Government has ignored those,” he said.
The Government has also announced a review of the Onshore Petroleum Act which governs the industry.
“There’s no indication the community will get a say in how that act is re-written and what that means,” said Mr Buckingham.
“That’s a really important announcement from the government and another indication that they are disempowering the community, the recommendations have been ignored, and they are trying to roll-out coal seam gas as fast as possible.”
Asked whether industry concerns of a ‘bubble’ in the gas market which could affect the industry and gas prices on the east coast were valid, Mr Buckingham scoffed.
“That is complete and utter garbage,” he said.
“The reality is Santos and Exxon have signed long-term contacts to export Australia’s natural gas from our conventional natural gas fields.
“That is what is creating a pinch in supply.”
The response was met with disappointment by anti-coal seam gas activists.
Boudicca Cerese from the Northern Rivers Lock the Gate Alliance says the response is a failure.
“It seems to continue the government agenda of fast-tracking the CSG industry across the state with just a few more hoops for the industry to jump through,” she said.
“They’re saying they have all these policies, nothing has been regulated yet so the aquifer interference plan, there’s still no regulation with any of it so I guess the next thing is to see what regulations they do bring in.”
Ms Cerese says the Lock the Gate Alliance will continue direct, non-violent protests such as the demonstrations last week at the Casino Airport where Metgasco was conducting seismic testing.
“The CSG-free community strategy rolling out across the region is really enabling local communities to become engaged in the whole debate and say ‘no we don’t want this industry in our region,’” she said.
Source: ABC News