NSW’s Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, released the final report on her review into coal seam gas (CSG) in the state on September 30.
Former premier Barry O’Farrell commissioned the review 18 months ago in response to intense public opposition to the industry.
It confirms the risks involved, concluding: “It is inevitable that the CSG industry will have some unintended consequences, including as the result of accidents, human error, and natural disasters."
Despite that, its recommendations are limited to the ways those risks could be managed through appropriate regulation, monitoring and having a well-trained workforce.
The industry responded by claiming the report gives a “green light” to CSG development. But community group Stop CSG Illawarra said the review asked the wrong question from the start. Instead of investigating whether the industry was safe to develop, it focused on how to help the industry progress by managing the risks involved.
Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said: "The report confirms risks that community members have been talking about for years. It states that many unknowns remain and that regulation of CSG by the NSW government needs an overhaul.
"But the recommendations from the review are framed by the terms of reference, and focus on how to develop the industry, not if or under what conditions development is safe.
"Stop CSG Illawarra does not support an approach of 'adapt when things go wrong'. The government must legislate no-go zones where 'unintended consequences' are ruled out.
"We want the land in NSW that supplies our drinking water protected, areas the report labels 'particularly sensitive'.”
Stop CSG Illawarra is calling on the state government to respond to the review and ban CSG drilling in water catchments areas.
Moore said: "CSG exploration and mining always involves unearthing water that is high in salt and methane, and can contain toxic and radioactive compounds and heavy metals. It involves damage to aquifers, methane leaks and industrial development that is incompatible with our drinking water catchments.
"A permanent ban on CSG in drinking water catchment areas is simply common sense."