Protest halts work on NSW’s biggest coal seam gas project

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Activist Warrick Jordan scaled a coal seam gas rig in the Pilliga forest on July 5 and dropped a banner that read 'No Pilliga CSG'. Photo: Kate Ausburn

Eastern Star Gas were forced to halt coal seam gas workat a site in the Pilliga state forest on July 5 after an activist scaled a 25-metre high rig dropping a banner that read “No Pilliga CSG”.

The activist, Warrick Jordan, was on the rig for almost 16 hours as part of a protest against ESG's proposal for 1100 coal seam gas wells and their associated infrastructure in the Pilliga.

At the protest, about 20 people, mostly residents of nearby Coonabarabran, staged a peaceful day-long blockade of the gates of the Eastern Star Gas site.

Friends of the Pilliga, Rising Tide, and Northern Inland Council for the Environment worked together with other concerned citizens to plan the protest.

The safety of ESG workers, police, and activists was prioritised during the protest. Jordan explained that the decision to carry out this type of protest was not taken lightly.

“This is the biggest proposed CSG project in NSW,” he said, “and the 600 kilometres of pipelines will open up large parts of the state to coal seam gas development.

“The environmental impacts of this project on bushland, threatened species, and water expose the fact that this is not a clean, green development.

“Eastern Star’s project will damage a nationally-significant ecosystem and entrench an industry that the people of New South Wales have every right to be worried about.”



Jordan voluntarily ended the protest and was taken to Narrabri police station and held for close to five hours before being released.

“The police have responded to these events by really throwing the book at Warrick Jordan,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, who attended the protest.

“He has been charged with five separate offences, including two offences under the Crimes Act and two offences under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act. The charges range from entering inclosed land to risking the safety of others and causing damage to property.”

“These charges will be vigorously defended. The protest was entirely peaceful, it occurred in a public forest, and there was no damage of any sort as a result of it.

“The only damage that is occurring in the Pilliga Forest is being done by Eastern Star Gas. They are destroying bushland and habitat for threatened species, and they plan to turn one of our most precious forests into a giant gas field," she said.

Peter Fox, general manager of stakeholder relations at Eastern Star Gas, expressed disappointment that the company had been the target of protest.

Fox told ABC radio on July 6 that the protest cost the company about $20,000. But he admitted no equipment on site had been damaged as a result of the action.

Flint said concerned communities would continue to work together against the threat that coal seam gas represents to natural assets like the Pilliga.

“The proposed gas field in the Pilliga Forest is the thin edge of the wedge — this project will entrench the coal seam gas industry in north-western NSW and spread out across bushlands and farmlands alike, representing a serious threat to the Great Artesian basin,” she said.

Jordan will appear in Narrabri local court in August.

From GLW issue 886