Independent NSW MP Justin Field has labelled the NSW Government’s coal seam gas plan a “facade” and called on the Narrabri Gas Project to be rejected following a second hearing by a NSW Upper House committee looking at the regulation of the industry in NSW.
Mr Field said, “Right now the NSW Government is considering Santos’ proposal to put 850 coal seam gas wells in the Pilliga near Narrabri, but it’s clear that the regulatory system that is supposed to protect precious groundwater, communities and nearby farmers is full of holes.
“They’ve had 5 years to fix this and they’ve failed. The Narrabri project should be rejected and the state can focus on building the renewable energy we need for communities and industry.
The inquiry was called to look in detail at the implementation of the NSW Chief Scientist’s 2014 Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW and will report later this month. The second hearing follows the release of the Energy Memorandum of Understand between the Commonwealth and NSW Government’s which in part required NSW to inject an additional 70 petajoules (PJ) of gas per year into the NSW market.
“Of the 16 recommendations, the committee heard evidence of recommendations not being implemented at all, some have only been partially adopted or the Government has done something entirely different which wasn’t what was recommended by the Chief Scientist. [NOTE: see summary of recommendations below]
“By including the Narrabri Gas Project as an option in the deal with the Commonwealth, it raises real concerns that the Government intends to ride roughshod over the community and the Chief Scientist’s recommendations will largely be pushed aside to support this project.
“The NSW Nationals have hung their hat on the NSW Gas Plan as a way to protect farmers and regional NSW, but it’s been shown to be full of holes and a fraud. NSW Deputy Premier and Resources Minister John Barilaro has been a champion of the gas industry, but he should be a champion of farmers and regional NSW and push for the Narrabri Project to be rejected.
“The testimony to the inquiry is only going to inflame the concerns within the community that this is an industry that is not being properly regulated and given what we heard, I don’t think it can be, it should be rejected.
A summary of recommendations that have not been implemented in full:
- Recommendation 2 - Adequate communication - partially complete. The community continues to complain that communication about coal seam gas is inadequate or incomplete and that Santos have not been open and transparent about their activities.
- Recommendation 4 - full cost recovery - incomplete. The Environmental Protection Authority spent $3.75 million last year on enforcement and regulatory activities and none of those costs have been recovered from the industry. Currently Santos are paying no royalties for gas they are commercially using.
- Recommendation 5 - Strategic Release Framework to designate no-go-zones - inadequate. The more than 12 expired petroleum exploration licences in North West NSW are not covered by the Strategic Release Framework leaving high value agricultural land and water resources exposed to future coal seam gas activities.
- Recommendation 6 - Create a single act for onshore mining and gas - abandoned. The Government has decided not to develop a single act, but changes have been made to create some harmony between existing acts.
- Recommendation 9 - Comprehensive insurance and environmental risk policy - incomplete. While bonds for potential environmental impacts are held, a policy for how CSG companies are required to be insured for potential impacts to environmental assets and the community has not been finalised.
- Recommendation 10 - Whole-of-Environment of data repository - partially complete. While significant work has been done on a repository, critical elements of the Chief Scientists recommendations remain incomplete and industry data has not been included.
- Recommendation 11 - Centralised Risk Management and Prediction Tool - abandoned. The Government is using piecemeal existing risk programs and tools instead of delivering on the recommendations, especially in regards to identifying cumulative risks.
- Recommendation 12 - Standing Expert Advisory Body on CSG - abandoned. The Government is relying on an existing Commonwealth advisory body which performs different functions to those called for by the Chief Scientist.
- Recommendation 13 - Governance and accountability of water data and water management - subsumed into other responses. The Chief Scientists Recommendations for a coordinated response to identifying water issues, risks and impacts have largely been ignored with issues raised incorporated into existing water management processes.