Glenugie locals and members of the Lock the Gate alliance are furious that gas company Metgasco has commenced preparations for drilling at Glenugie near Grafton without consultation with nearby landholders or any public notification that they had received approval for the works.
Local Sarah Fletcher is anxious about the potential impacts of the drilling operation on her property, which lies downstream of the site on Avenue Road, just east of the Grafton Regional Airport and within the catchment of the important Coldstream wetlands.
‘I was shocked to learn that drilling commenced yesterday,’ Mrs Fletcher said. ‘According to workmen at the site, a six-metre hole has already been drilled and a pad established for future drilling.
‘This has come from out of the blue. We had a promise from Steve Gallop, Metgasco’s manager of Health, Safety and Environment, that all neighbours would be notified in writing but this has not occurred,’ she said.
Mrs Fletcher joined other locals at a protest vigil outside the site yesterday.
Lock the Gate’s northern regional coordinator, Ian Gaillard, who also be joined the protest at the site, shares the locals’ concerns about the lack of transparency and communication in the process that has approved this work.
‘Approval of this drill site is based on a consent given in 2010 for a well site then proposed for an undisclosed location in Coaldale – 50km to the north-west of the current site.
‘Apparently an amendment to the review of environmental factors (REF) has been assessed for this new site – but this amendment and the new approval are not currently available on the Department of Resource and Energy’s website.
‘We are calling on the NSW government to address the community’s real concerns regarding the lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes,’ he said.
‘With the shroud of secrecy clouding the approval process, is it any wonder that there is widespread lack of confidence in the government’s promises to protect our water and air from pollution arising from the drilling process?
‘We are calling for an immediate stop to all drilling for unconventional gas in the Clarence Valley. Recently released data on methane emissions from gas fields at Tara highlight the urgent need for baseline studies to be done before this industry proceeds any further in our region,’ he said.