NSW government all at sea on coal seam gas

November 14, 2011
Pilot CSG wells are being sunk in NSW's Pilliga Forest. Photo: Kate Ausburn

The Northern Inland Council for the Environment and The Wilderness Society Newcastle released the statement below on November 14.

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Environment groups have responded to news that the NSW government plans to stop a single coal seam gas pilot production well on the Liverpool Plains with calls for a far more extensive moratorium.

The Minister for Western NSW Kevin Humphries told ABC radio on November 14 that all coal seam gas exploration in NSW would be suspended until a much tighter regulatory regime was in place, but he was then over-ruled by Energy and Resources Minister, Chris Hartcher, who said that the halt on drilling was limited to Santo's Spring Ridge operations near Gunnedah.

"The statements today suggest that the NSW government is in complete disarray over its coal seam gas policy,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.

"An ad hoc decision to suspend drilling at one site only is a very strange move — if coal seam gas drilling is not safe then it should be suspended everywhere until scientific studies are completed.

"Kevin Humphries stated this morning that a 'tighter regime was needed when it came to water or aquifer interference’. If the rules are not tight enough then pilot production should not be proceeding anywhere in NSW.

"However, pilot production is being conducted by Santos right now just an hour away from Gunnedah in the Pilliga Forest which is the southern recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin” she said.

Prue Bodsworth of The Wilderness Society Newcastle said: “We are calling on the NSW government to suspend all coal seam gas wells in NSW if they are serious about having a credible policy on coal seam gas in NSW.

“At the very least, they must ensure that all Santos pilot production wells are suspended and that they do not allow drilling through the Great Artesian Basin while they themselves have acknowledged there are real risks to water and aquifers.”

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