The NSW Greens have come out in support of the upper house inquiry into Coal Seam Gas, chaired by Shooters & Fishers Party MP Robert Brown, which was released yesterday.
But Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said, ‘the logical conclusion from this inquiry should have been a moratorium on the coal-seam gas industry’.
Key recommendations of the inquiry include calling on the government to:
- issue no further production licences until a comprehensive framework for the regulation of the coal seam gas industry is implemented;
- require a licence holder to enter into an access agreement with a landholder if they wish to prospect for gas;
- strengthen landholder rights in relation to land access;
- continue the current ban on fracking until the chemicals used have been properly assessed;
- ensure that aquifer interference requirements are extended to exploration wells
- apply an upper limit of 0.1 per cent on so-called fugitive emissions from gas wells;
- establish a petroleum ombudsman, compliance unit and complaints hotline.
It also called for coal-seam gas companies to pay the full royalty rate from the first date of production and recommended the government develop a ‘royalties for regions’ program.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said, ‘the conclusions of the report echo the calls from NSW Farmers, irrigators, thoroughbred breeders, vignerons, regional communities, environmentalists, scientists, the Greens, and even the grassroots of the National Party, for a precautionary approach to coal seam gas.’
‘The comprehensive inquiry has found there are significant risks associated with the coal-seam gas industry and a lack of regulation. The sensible recommendations made in the report seek to… ensure we protect land and water resources in NSW,’ he said.
But he added, ‘the logical conclusion from this inquiry should have been a moratorium on the coal-seam gas industry.’
Dr Stuart Khan, an environmental engineer and water quality expert from the University of New South Wales, who made a submission to the inquiry in December, said, ‘national risk assessment guidelines should be set on the impact of drilling on aquifers, as poorly planned exploration and extraction activities can pose considerable risks to both groundwater and surface water systems’.
Dr Khan said he was concerned about proposals to ban certain practices such as open storage of potentially contaminated groundwater altogether.
‘Alternative solutions will necessarily be identified by the industry and these may potentially be more problematic than those things which happen to be banned,’ he said.
‘The appropriate “catch all” solution is to require rigorous risk assessment and risk management for all individual proposals. Again, comprehensive national guidelines are required to facilitate this for the most effective environmental outcomes.’