The gas industry has been in the news lately for a number of reasons.
Firstly there is the Federal Government’s support for expansion of the on-shore gas industry – support largely based on two dubious claims. For years it has claimed gas is less polluting than other fossil fuels and is an excellent transitional fuel. More recently it is touting expanding gas production as a major solution for the economic recovery from the COVID downturn.
But the NSW Government is equally determined to expand gas extraction despite the concerns of community members and the Government’s failure to fully implement recommendations by the NSW Chief Scientist to mitigate the risks of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry.
Earlier this year a parliamentary inquiry found that only two of the 16 recommendations made by Professor O’Kane in 2014 had been implemented by the NSW Government - despite the Government's promise to implement all of her recommendations.
Against this backdrop is the massive Santos gasfield project in the Pilliga Forest and farmland near Narrabri in the state’s north west. Although Santos has been extracting gas in the area for some time as a pilot project – and a very large pilot indeed – it is waiting on the final approval from the NSW Government.
While both governments might be very keen to see this and other gasfields go ahead, there is considerable community concern about the impact of the industry in general and Santos' project in particular. Concerns include volume of water used in the extraction process, pollution of groundwater, damage to the Great Artesian Basin, safe disposal of produced water, increased carbon emissions and general health concerns for communities living in or near a gasfield. What has happened elsewhere in the world as well as in Queensland has illustrated just how relevant these and other concerns are.
Government’s indifference to community concerns was demonstrated clearly on
June 4 when it failed to support the CSG Moratorium Bill that stipulated
reasonable conditions that should be met for lifting any moratorium on CSG
developments.This Bill was passed in the Legislative Council where the opposition and cross benches all supported it but was narrowly defeated in the Legislative Assembly.
The NSW Government appears to have learnt nothing from what happened several years ago in the NSW Northern Rivers over Metgasco's proposed gasfield . Eventually the very strong community opposition forced the NSW Government, which had been a strong supporter of the development, to back down and buy out Metgasco's licence.
Once again this same government is ignoring widespread community concerns about this invasive and polluting industry and is showing its contempt for the community and cosiness with the big end of town.