NSW Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has questioned whether Metgasco misled the upper house CSG inquiry regarding its wastewater disposal regime.
‘The recent acknowledgement by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that Metgasco was illegally disposing of coal-seam gas water at the Casino Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) appears to contradict some of the evidence given by Metgasco at the inquiry,’ Mr Buckingham said yesterday.
He went on to quote Hansard over a conversation between himself and Metgasco’s COO Michael O’Brien in evidence given to the inquiry last December.
During the conversation Mr Buckingham asked how Metgasco disposed of its wastewater and Mr O’Brien responded that the water was held in ‘above-ground holding ponds’.
When Mr Buckingham queried whether they were evaporation ponds (which have been banned), Mr O’Brien replied, ‘They are holding ponds. In the Casino area you get significant rainfall; you also get some evaporation. Over a 12-month period you will get net evaporation out of those ponds.’
Mr Buckingham then pushed the point about disposal.
‘The only way you deal with produced water and drilling fluids is to hold them in those ponds?’ he asked.
To which Mr O’Brien responded, ‘Currently, for our production pilots, that is the case’.
But the Environmental Defenders Office has told Echonetdaily that Casino STP admitted it had accepted and treated a total of 1.36 megalitres of wastewater from Metgasco between 3 May last year and 9 March this year. This information is confirmed in a letter to that office from the EPA dated 7 June 2012. Echonetdaily has sighted a copy of the letter.
Mr Buckingham said he would write to the committee and ask it to look into the matter.
‘It is extremely serious to mislead a parliamentary inquiry,’ he said.
‘What is clear is that Metgasco is continuing to treat the Casino, Lismore and Kyogle communities with contempt and dishonesty in relation to their plans.
‘To any fair-minded person the construction of their so-called ‘temporary storage’ pond at Casino is a clear breach of the government’s no evaporation ponds policy.
‘They are hiding behind semantics and the government continues to fail in its obligations to hold the coal-seam gas industry to account.’