Quick links to items below:
- Latest on Narrabri CSG
- Moratorium bill
- Rebirth of CSG threat
- Participation in IPC process
- Resources including submission-writing guide
Friday 12 June, 2020. The Berijiklian government has given its support to the Narrabri coal seam gas project in northern NSW. It endorsed a report by the Planning Department that recommended this highly controversial project proceed. It has now been referred to the Independent Planning Commission for a decision within 12 weeks. Please go to the bottom of this page for ways you can help to stop the final approval.
The government report noted that the project will produce up to 840,000 tonnes of waste and, despite the fact that Santos has provided no disposal solution, they did not see this as a reason to reject it. Neither was the fact that 14 of the 16 recommendations made by the Chief Scientist to manage the industry's health and environment risks have not been implemented despite the government's 2015 commitment to implement them. Approval was recommended even though 1,000 hectares of koala habitat may be destroyed and concerns of groundwater contamination went unaddressed.
New Moratorium Bill ultimately defeated
At midnight on 3 June 2020 the NSW upper house passed independent MP Justin Field's bill to place an immediate ban on the prospecting for or mining of coal seam gas in NSW and to classify certain areas as permanent "no go zones", one of which was the Great Artesian Basin affected by Santos' Narrabri project. However, less than 8 hours later Nationals leader John Barilaro announced he would suspend the entire parliamentary agenda of the lower house to debate the bill. It was rushed through and defeated 38 to 36.
The bill caused a very difficult situation for the government, particularly the Nationals whose constituency does not want coal seam gas. The government wanted the debate over and out of the limelight as quickly as possible. Some National Party MPs even used the pairing system to avoid turning up for the vote. Once again a moratorium bill was defeated but this was the closest one has yet come to being passed in NSW.
- Justin Field's bill
- Justin Field's press release on the government's failure to implement 14 of the 16 Chief Scientist's recommendations to make the industry safer.
- article from the Echo
- article from SMH
A Coal Seam Gas rebirth
The Covid 19 epidemic has brought in its wake the perfect cover for the government to boost the ailing coal seam gas industry in the guise of economic recovery. It is no coincidence that the National Covid Co-ordination Commission is chaired by Nev Power, Deputy Chairman of oil and gas exploration company, Strike Energy. A leaked report from the manufacturing taskforce of the Commission advocates development of new gas fields, scrapping bans on coal seam gas projects and getting state and federal governments to underwrite gas prices. The taskforce, which includes many other representatives of the fossil fuel industry, makes no mention of climate change or carbon reduction in its report. Indeed, the taskforce advocates more fossil fuel use! (See here for details.) This is despite the fact that a report funded by WWF found that every dollar of stimulus spent on clean projects generates nearly three times as many jobs per dollar than investment in fossil fuel projects. (See the WWF report for details.)
The federal government is trying all avenues to push coal seam gas back on Australia's agenda and has made the increase of gas production a condition for the states to receive multi-million dollar energy funding.
Prime Minister Morrison has long promoted gas as a 'transition fuel', supposedly en route to a renewable future, and now he argues it will be used in the production of clean, green hydrogen. This comes at a time when it is known that hydrogen produced from electricity generated from renewables is both feasible and environmentally preferable. Increased gas production makes no sense unless it's because the government wants to give a leg up to its supporters in the fossil fuel industries.
So coal seam gas will be back on the agenda big time and we are seeing a push for cancelled licences to be reinstated and new approvals granted. The first cab off the rank will be Santos' Narrabri project; and for the government's gas revival plans to succeed, a lot rests on this project being approved. Santos has indicated it wants to develop seven gas fields across north-west NSW and the proposed 850-well Narrabri project will be the first of these.
Santos' 850 wells will be spread over 95,000 hectares of the bush-fire-prone Pilliga Forest and surrounding farmland. The Pilliga forest is the largest temperate forest left in eastern Australia and a refuge for many endangered and threatened wildlife. 1,000 hectares of koala habitat may be destroyed - a major below to the species after the recent bushfires.
The Narrabri project puts at risk both surface water and groundwater, including the Great Artesian Basin which sustains farms and communities across inland Australia.
After many years of operation the industry has not addressed waste issues. The Narrabri project could produce 840,000 tonnes of salty waste over its lifetime with no disposal solution. Santos has a long history of environmental pollution of various kinds and there is no reason to believe this project will be any different.
This project is being considered for approval even though a parliamentary enquiry found that 14 of the 16 recommendations in the Chief Scientist's 2014 report on the CSG industry in NSW had not been implemented. And now the insurance industry has refused to insure farmers for public liability if there is coal sea gas infrastructure on their property. (More details).
Methane is an extremely potent Greenhouse gas and fugitive emissions from the project will contribute to global warming as well as being a health hazard to those living nearby.
The industry wants us to believe that they need to produce more gas so as to bring down prices for consumers. However, as most gas produced in Australia is exported, this explanation falls flat. (More details).
Recently Independent NSW MP Justin Field's CSG moratorium bill was passed in the NSW upper house but, as the NSW government had the numbers in the lower house, they fast-tracked its demise the very next day by suspending the day's parliamentary agenda and voting it down. The success of the Narrabri project depended on this bill being tucked away as quickly as possible with as little debate and protest as could be organised.
The Narrabri project has been referred to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for consideration. Very soon they will be calling for submissions and nominating a hearing date. It is absolutely vital that the Commission receives submissions objecting to this proposal. It is our only hope of preventing the CSG floodgate being opened once again and this environmentally disastrous project getting the green light – a misnomer if ever there was one.
So, please take the time to send in a submission, and encourage any friends or family who also share your concerns about CSG to send submissions. Past experience shows that the IPC takes seriously large numbers of genuine submissions.
Registering your interest in speaking to the IPC panel (which you can do from home) would also be very helpful. Registering your interest does not mean that you will necessarily be called on to speak but at least it shows your concern.
Participation Options and Timeline
The closing date for submissions on the Narrabri Gas Project has been extended to 5 pm 10th August. You can make your submission via email or the on-line portal: www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/have-your-say. Email: email@example.com. It is worth reading instructions first on the IPC's Have your Say page, as above.
IPC public hearings will take place on-line between Monday 20 July and Friday 24 July.
You can attend the public meeting on-line or listen to the audio stream by dialling 1800 093 431 and entering the PIN: 61397377# Note the number of people who do attend or listen to the hearing will indicate how much interest there is in the issue.
The IPC is required to make a final determination on the project by 4th September - unless they are granted an extension.
Click here to find all the information you will need to participate in the process including two submission guides, timelines and links - all on one page.
The Dept of Planning's assessment report on the project can be found here. You may wish to respond directly to it.
The North West Alliance site has lots of information which will help in submission writing. In particular see the expert reviews they commissioned here.