Sunday, 1 October 2017


Mining company Santos has plans for a massive coal seam gas mining operation near Narrabri in the north-west of NSW.  In its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which was put on public exhibition earlier this year, Santos outlined its proposal for 850 gas wells on agricultural land and in the Pilliga Forest (which is crown land).  Almost 23,000 submissions were received by the NSW Department of Planning on the EIS, the largest response ever to a planning proposal in NSW.  Apparently around 18,000 of these were opposed to the development.

 The NSW Government is yet to make a decision on whether the project will go ahead.

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition (CVCC)  made a submission opposing the proposal. Part of this submission was published in a recent post   . The rest of the CVCC submission is published below.

Climate Change Effects

a) CSG and unconventional gas projects that have been developed in Australia and elsewhere are not greenhouse-friendly (or even more greenhouse friendly than coal) as the industry and many politicians claim. This project will be the same.  Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

b) While the burning of it for energy creation produces carbon dioxide just as happens with coal, there is a major issue with fugitive emissions from leaking wells and venting of the gas from pipelines.  Proponents of the industry conveniently choose to ignore this when promoting it as a better energy source than coal. The Queensland experience has shown that problems of leakage in an operational gasfield are quite common.

c) Moreover, once the industry has extracted all the gas that it economically can and has capped its wells, there will be a continued leakage of methane as the well-capping fails over time.

d) Furthermore the claim that gas will serve as a relatively long-term transition to renewables is looking increasingly unlikely given the rapid development of renewables and large-scale battery technology – technologies which are much more appropriate in a carbon-constrained world. So there are questions about the long-term financial viability of this project.  Is it likely to become a stranded asset?

Effect on Dark Sky and the Siding Springs Observatory

a) Santos’ activities are already affecting the Siding Springs Observatory near Coonabarabran. This observatory in the newly established Dark Sky Park hosts the largest optical telescopes from national and  international universities and research entities.  The site contains more than 50 telescopes used by a variety of institutions.  And there are plans for further telescopes – as long as the sky remains dark.

b) From 2013 light emissions from Santos’ gasfield exploration have increased to the point where the Bibblewindi large flare creates  more light pollution than the entire nearby town of Coonabarabran which has over 3,500 residents.

c) Santos plans to triple the number of pilot flares and double the number of large flares including constructing 50 metre high flare stacks with an average 30 metre high flame above it.  There is no mention that they will enclose the flares and thus limit the light pollution.

d) This is a very important research facility as well as an important tourist attraction to the region.  Its viability should not be compromised by Santos’ project.

 Inadequacy of Santos’ EIS

The size of this very large EIS is no indication of its adequacy. There are far too many unknowns.  For example there are no maps showing where the 850 wells and all the other infrastructure will be situated.  The NSW Government should insist that Santos provide this information and that it should be on  exhibition for public comment before the project is assessed by government.

 The Project as a Solution to the “Gas Crisis” in Australia

Any suggestion that developing this massive project will solve the so-called gas shortage crisis is arrant nonsense. There is plenty of gas being mined in this country but the trouble is that practically all production is being exported. This means the domestic market is threatened by shortages. This has happened because successive governments have failed (except for Western Australia) to secure domestic supply with some form of reservation policy as happens in other parts of the world (including the USA). In addition there have been suggestions that the some gas companies are holding back production in some operational fields. This presumably would have an impact on domestic supplies. Quite obviously there is an appalling lack of transparency in the national gas market – something which should be fixed by government.


The CVCC understands that there is widespread opposition to this development throughout the region.  It is obvious that it does not have a social licence to move from its destructive exploration stage to an even more destructive production stage.  The benefits claimed by the industry and others – largely referring to job numbers and an economic boost to the area – are outweighed by far by the long-term damage that this industry will do over a wide area of the north-west – to the natural environment, to climate,  to agriculture, to water supplies, to clean air, and to community health.  Furthermore, if Santos is permitted to go ahead, the impacts of its gas-mining will remain with the region long after it has made its pile and left.

The Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition believes that this project should be rejected.