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March 4, 2021

Stoner stonewalled over CSG

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Carol Vernon, Fernmount

There is much to challenge in the February 19 media release by premier Barry O’Farrell and Andrew Stoner MP.

Up until now the National Party have claimed that their Strategic Regional Land Use Policy would protect land and water in New South Wales. If this assertion were true, why is there any reason for new ‘measures’ to ‘strengthen’ regulations?

Mr Stoner would have us believe that we (the community) have been listened to. Let’s remember it was the NSW Greens’ Jeremy Buckingham MLC who successfully initiated the 2012 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas mining that brought to light the dangers of CSG. The Liberal/National NSW government needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to the inquiry before agreeing on these modest reforms to the rampant coal seam gas industry. Now they are rewriting history.

Andrew Stoner and Barry O’Farrell claim their government is not responsible for the exploration licences. ‘It was Labor that handed out CSG exploration licences… ‘ Perhaps they are just unaware that Liberal/National government also handed out licences. The application to drill for pilot production at Fullerton Cove was made to the O’Farrell government in September 2011 and approved by DITRIS on 5 June 2012.

Premier O’Farrell has claimed that if his government were to cancel petroleum exploration licences then the state would be liable for billions in compensation. However, the Petroleum (Onshore) Act makes it clear that companies would not be paid any compensation for cancellation of licences if they breached ‘conditions’. Surely this means that if the Lib/National government has got its new ‘measures’ and ‘controls’ correct then they won’t have to pay any compensation because all the companies will be complying with their ‘conditions’.

The O’Farrell/Stoner government is yet to legislate these new promises made under pressure. If the legislation is passed as proposed there is no protection for farming land, only for viticulture and horse studs. Does this mean that many farmers in New South Wales have less value than grapes and horses?

Existing licences and drilling such as we have seen at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek will proceed. No amount of payout would compensate for the loss in value of farmland because of its industrialisation. Picture many CSG wells 500m apart linked by roads and pipelines; the one small well in a pretty field is advertising hype by the CSG industry.

Luke Hartsuyker is quoted on March 8 as saying that coal seam gas is ‘very much an industry approved in the state jurisdiction’. The responsibility of this jurisdiction certainly appears to cause Mr Stoner some conflict when he can be quoted on ABC News, February 22, as saying: ‘I wouldn’t want a CSG well five metres from my property. It’s going to affect my property value a hell of a lot. Nobody is going to want to buy that value, ah that piece of land rather, um, and there’s always the potential for something to go wrong, so I understand why people are concerned.’

How does this fit with the bottom line of the same media release where Mr Stoner says: ‘We want a sustainable CSG industry in NSW…’? Sustainable? How? Renewable? No! Social licence for this industry? None!

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