A fortnight after the NSW Liberal government announced policy changes to coal seam gas (CSG) mining in NSW to ban drilling within two kilometres of some residential areas, about 400 local residents met at Springwood Civic Centre on March 24 for the “Coal seam gas — it still stinks” public forum.
Speakers explained the continuing threat to the environment, residents’ health and the world heritage values of this area posed by the CSG industry.
The forum was organised by the newly formed Stop CSG Blue Mountains as part of its campaign to ensure that AGL, the company that has a CSG exploration licence covering large sections of the Blue Mountains, is not permitted to drill in the area.
The AGL licence covers a large area in Sydney’s far-western suburbs extending up to Springwood in the mid- Blue Mountains. A newly granted Petroleum Title Application obtained by the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council covers the rest of the Blue Mountains region from Springwood to Mount Victoria, and extending beyond Lithgow.
The Australian government has an international obligation to protect and conserve World Heritage areas like the Blue Mountains, but there is no legal impediment to existing land uses unless they threaten the outstanding universal values of the area.
In theory, NSW legislation protects World Heritage national parks from coal and CSG mining, but in practice the NSW government can change legislation to allow activities that were previously prohibited, such as shooting in national parks and commercial activities in wilderness areas. Mining can occur in national parks if a simple motion put before both houses of parliament is not disallowed within a certain time period.
Speakers at the forum included Drew Hutton, president of Lock the Gate, Dr Helen Redmond from Doctors for the Environment, mining geologist Dr Brian Marshall, Jess Moore from Stop CSG Illawarra, Blue Mountains City Council Mayor, Daniel Myles, and local Aboriginal elder Aunty Carol Cooper.
Under growing pressure from the anti-CSG campaign in the Blue Mountains, the Liberal-controlled council has unanimously passed three motions in the past four months opposing CSG exploration and drilling in the local government area.
[For more information about the campaign and to get involved, visit stopcsgm.net.au.]