Tweed Shire Council is urging the Liberal and National coalition to support north coast communities opposed to coal seam gas (CSG) by introducing an immediate ban on all CSG activities and licences in the region.
The move follows increased pressure from state Labor and Greens for the ban, and comes as the NSW Parliament was told the gas industry was keeping the government ‘in the dark’ about claims the state could face a gas shortage if mining did not go ahead.
The gas-shortage claim, widely discredited by experts and anti-CSG campaigners, was the subject of some heated debate at last night’s Tweed Shire Council meeting when it was repeated by National Party councillor Phil Youngblutt.
Cr Youngblutt, the only one to oppose deputy mayor Michael Armstrong’s motion calling for the moratorium for Lismore, Ballina, Clarence and Tweed and for the region to be declared CSG Free, said CSG was ‘almost non-existent’ in the Tweed.
But his comment that it was ‘safe’, and ‘needed’ because ‘even Sydney is running out of gas’ was seized on by Greens Cr Katie Milne who accused him of spreading misinformation.
She said Cr Youngblutt’s assertion that Sydney would run out of gas was a very worrying example of this misinformation, sparking an interjection from Cr Youngblutt that ‘they’ll run out in two years, they said it today’.
Cr Milne continued, saying Australia was exporting gas, domestic gas prices were ‘hooked up’ to the international market, and the gas shortage was ‘a line promoted by the gas industry’.
She said Cr Youngblutt and others repeating the claim ‘should look at other sources before they swallow it hook, line and sinker’.
That prompted Cr Youngblutt to again interject, saying there was no gas because Tweed was ‘in an extinct volcano’ and that he read a report (in Murdoch newspapers) about the shortage claim by a senior geologist.
Mayor Barry Longland then asked Cr Youngblutt to invite that senior geologist to the Tweed.
‘I will because this is so much nonsense,’ Cr Youngblutt concluded.
Cr Armstrong said there was ‘a lot of passion’ and much opposition to CSG in the Tweed with a recent survey showing 85 per cent against it, ‘but those voices need to be heard’.
He said the Liberal-National coalition was ‘the last to hold out’ after state Labor changed its policy recently and calling for the north coast moratorium, and the Greens had long backed a CSG Free northern rivers.
The Liberal and National coalition, Cr Armstrong said, ‘was the final political organisation to bring on board’ as they had ‘not yet supported the community’s desire for a CSG Free northern rivers’.
‘We’ve endorsed this consistently for more than two years, now we should give voice to that opposition,’ Cr Armstrong said.
Cr Carolyn Byrne said she was against CSG but had ‘a problem with the political nature of this motion’. She did not vote, having left the chamber.
Cr Milne ‘begged’ Liberal-National coalition members to ‘come and live in the northern rivers’ because ‘they are taking a stand not supportive of their communities’.
She said the clean-green image of the Tweed would be ‘destroyed’ if CSG came to the region, and that to say the Tweed would not be affected by CSG activities elsewhere in the northern rivers was ‘wrong’ because underground water supplies would be impacted by CSG mining.
Also at last night’s meeting, councillors voted 5-1 (Cr Youngblutt against) for installing CSG-Free signs on existing entry and locality signs around the Tweed, including several extra ones at the shire’s northern road entries.
The Lock the Gate Alliance says the gas lobby APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) is withholding information from NSW government on gas supply
The alliance called on the gas industry to come clean over gas prices and contracts after revelations in state parliament on Wednesday that no policy maker in Australia knows whether or not the east coast gas market will experience domestic shortfalls as a result of gas export contracts in Queensland.
The alliance’s NSW co-ordinator Georgina Woods said that under questioning in Budget Estimates, energy minister Anthony Roberts revealed the gas industry is leaving Australian policy makers ‘in the dark’ over unsubstantiated claims that export gas contracts have created a supply shortfall ‘requiring hasty development of unsafe unconventional gas fields in regional NSW’.
‘The public has been bombarded with threats of a looming gas shortage thanks to LNG export contracts vacuuming up the east coast supply and driving up wholesale prices,’ Ms Woods said.
‘Yesterday’s bombshell reveals that, in fact, the gas industry has refused to give the government, let along the public, the information it needs to assess the hysterical claims made by gas companies and their boosters, in their urging to hasten the development of vast invasive gas fields in bushland and farmland in northern NSW.
‘The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has treated regional communities that dare to stand up to the gas giants and fight to protect their water supplies with contempt, and it seems they’ve done the same to the government.
‘We welcome minister Roberts’ rejection of the petroleum exploration applications affecting Dubbo and the Blue Mountains, and his insistence that industry claims over gas shortfalls be transparently tested.
‘If the gas giants have overcommitted their export contracts and cannot meet their commitments, that is not the fault of farming communities in northern NSW, and there’s no way that communities will allow the groundwater they depend upon for their livelihoods to be compromised because gas companies can’t count how many gigajoules they’ve got to sell in Queensland.
‘The unfinished business in unconventional gas policy is proper protection for water resources – our rivers, aquifers and drinking water catchments, from any kind of drilling,’ Ms Woods said.
Cr Milne later said CSG had ‘not only has potential implications our drinking water but also the Tweed River basin and groundwater’.
She provided the following information to Echonetdaily for readers.
The Clarence-Moreton bioregion comprises the eastward-draining part of the Clarence-Moreton Basin (based on surface water flow delineation) in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland and covers an area of approximately 24,292 km2. It adjoins the Northern Inland Catchments bioregion in the north-west and includes the Brisbane, Logan-Albert, South Coast, Tweed, Brunswick, Richmond and Clarence river basins. However, water resources outside the Clarence-Moreton bioregion that may potentially be impacted by coal seam gas activities or coal mining in the Clarence-Moreton bioregion will also be considered.
Based on the work undertaken in the CMB to date by Arrow Energy and others, the basin is considered to be highly prospective for coal seam gas as well as other unconventional and conventional gas deposits. Since 2002, Arrow Energy has drilled 15 exploration wells. Exploration results indicate that the area contains significant gas resources, which are over-pressured, contain significant free gas, and are generally close to 100% saturation with a gas composition regularly over 95% methane.