New hope that Santos may drop Narrabri CSG project

An anti-coal seam gas protest at the Pilliga earlier this year. Photo: Pilliga Push
December 8, 2016

Activists campaigning against coal seam gas have cautiously welcomed Santos’ December 8 statement that it is downgrading its controversial Narrabri Gas Project in the north west of NSW. 

For some three years, Gamilaraay people, famers and activists have been campaigning against the coal seam gas project, concerned about its potential harm on the Great Artesian Basin.

Now, they hope that Santos’ restructure is a signal that the company may be looking to extricate itself from the project.  

As Raymond Bubbly Weatherall, from the Gunu Gunu clan and the Biridja clan, told Green Left Weekly: “If the Narrabri Gas project is seen non-core, it means it will not be looking at gas extraction from Gamilaraay country. We are proud that we and others have made a stand against it.”

People for the Plains said they were hoping that the “sweat or exit” strategy, Santos’ description, meant that the Narribri project would fall under the latter.

Santos’ notification to the ASX said it intended to restructure itself into five “core” parts, excluding the Narrabri project which didn’t rate a mention in the 65 pages of detail. The oil and gas giant said it was aiming to reduce its debt to under $3 billion by 2019, including sacking some 500 people.

They and the Pilliga Push Action group have been campaigning against the construction of the Leeward waste water facility — a holding pond for the waste water bought up from the wells.

Earlier this month, Santos restarted work on the holding pond and irrigation system, before the verdict of an appeal on that issue and before an environmental impact statement has been released.

On December 2, Pilliga Push posted pictures on their FB page of koala habitat trees being destroyed at the Leewood water treatment plant to make way for irrigation with treated gas field produced water right next to a critically endangered Brigalow woodland.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said on December 8 that Santos’ move shows that the Narrabri project “has no future” and called on the NSW government to “cancel the licence to provide certainty to the community and protect the land and water”.

“Developing new fossil fuels, particularly when they pose risks through fracking and the extraction of vast amounts of saline water is negligent behaviour,” Buckingham said.

The NSW government had fast tracked the Narrabri project by making it a “Strategic Energy Project” which, also, did not require an environmental impact statement.

Since 201, following the release of the NSW Gas Plan — itself the project of community campaigns all over the state — the NSW government has cancelled, with compensation, more than a dozen coal seam gas licences across NSW.

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