“Coal seam gas in New South Wales is dead in the water”, Julie Lyford, spokesperson for Groundswell Gloucester, said after AGL announced on February 4 it was quitting Gloucester.
AGL had planned to drill at 300 sites in a geologically complex and rich farming region north-west of Newcastle. It had been facing fierce opposition for conducting tests in the Gloucester region under PEL 285.
The decision has been welcomed by anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners across NSW. AGL's licence was due for renewal on February 22.
AGL also announced it would leave Camden in south west Sydney in 2023, sooner than previously thought. But anti-fracking activists do not accept that departure timetable saying its operations, now near schools and homes, are causing major harm to the community.
Dan Robbins from Lock the Gate Alliance told Green Left Weekly: “Residents in Spring Farm are celebrating AGL's decision. However, they want these wells closed now, not in seven years.
“The community will not stop fighting until all wells near homes are closed for good.”
Lyford told the Gloucester Advocate that AGL's decision was proof “that ordinary people standing up is a powerful force”.
“What's happened in Gloucester is a lot of people had their eyes opened to the injustice.
“Scientifically, this was never going to be a viable gas field,” Lyford said, referring to the complex geology of the area.
Lyford thanked all the anti-fracking groups and vigil protectors including Lock the Gate, the Knitting Nannas, Stop CSG Sydney, the Greens and “all the many musicians, film-makers, journalists, photographers, writers, researchers, scientists, economists and media for believing in the Gloucester story and getting the truth out where it needed to be”.
“This victory belongs to everyone,” she told GLW. “The fight now moves to Camden and the Pilliga and beyond.”
In its statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, AGL said its decision was based on the fall in global oil prices and on long-term Queensland gas prices. It said the Waukivory pilot well in Gloucester showed lower-than-expected production volumes. It had previously said the Gloucester Gas Project had the potential to supply more than 15% of NSW's gas needs.
AGL did not mention the large and growing community opposition. But the Australian Financial Review's Matthew Stevens was not so coy. “AGL's withdrawal marks the most significant victory yet in the activists' march to contain coal seam gas production,” he wrote on February 4.
AGL, Australia's second largest energy retailer, will receive a hand-out of about $640 million from the NSW government, under the Coalition's NSW Gas Plan, but still expects to make a profit in 2016. Groundswell Gloucester believes AGL has “no basis” to ask for compensation.
[Groundswell Gloucester had planned a festival “For the Love of Gloucester” over February 12 to 14 as part of the resistance to AGL's fracking plans. They will now be holding a celebration. All are welcome. For more details go to the website.]