NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is scheduled to meet the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in Casula on February 13, but he’s not going to enjoy a quiet lunch. Anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners are planning a protest to show their opposition to CSG mining in the area.
Greens activist Suzie Wright and Socialist Alliance Parramatta branch convener Fred Fuentes organised the action with anti-CSG groups.
"Western Sydney sits at the front line of the political battle being waged for the federal election,” said Wright. “Our landscape may survive the political battle, but it won’t survive if we lose the battle against coal seam gas mining.”
Fuentes said: “There’s a lot of stake if this project goes ahead, including the massive industrialisation of the streets of western Sydney, that will further clog with trucks.”
One project that faced large community opposition was gas company AGL’s planned expansion to its operation in Camden. A record 2500 submissions were lodged against it. Campbelltown City Council, concerned about the risk to the aquifer system, fracking and the health of residents, decided to hold a series of community forums on the issue.
Neighbouring Liverpool City Council has recently declared itself a CSG-free zone.
Campaigners won a small victory on February 8 with the announcement that AGL was suspending the planned expansion in Camden. But they remain committed to continuing the campaign.
“We need to make sure it’s not just suspended but that the plan is dropped completely,” Fuentes told Green Left Weekly.
“AGL must be thinking that a change of government is highly likely this year and it knows that it won’t receive as much heat about its dodgy environmental, social and health assessments when the Camden expansion project reappears."
“Community campaigns can have an impact; we can win. This is just a first, partial victory. We need to step up the campaign to force AGL to drop the project altogether. We have to ‘Lock the state’ on the CSG industry.”
AGL wants a public consultation on the Camden expansion, scheduled for February 25, to be cancelled. Southern and western anti-CSG groups are planning a networking meeting and public forums over the next few months.
Stop CSG Blue Mountains campaigner Sharon Wikinson, who is supporting the Casula protest, said: “Politics and coal seam gas mining are inextricably linked. It is government, and this state government in particular, that can legislate to stop it. O’Farrell will have to ask himself who has he been elected by? The people of western Sydney or the mining companies?”
[The “Have lunch with Barry” protest will take place at the Bella Fonte Events Centre, corner of Hume Highway and York Street in Casula. Assemble at 11.30am for a protest starting at 12pm.]