Northern NSW is celebrating at the announcement of the second withdrawal of a coal seam gas company in as many months.
Dart Energy’s announcement that it will mothball its Australian operations and concentrate on its UK interests, where it says it has more ‘regulatory certainty’, follows Metgasco’s pull out on 12 March.
Michael McNamara from Lock the Tweed said that this was great news for residents who live inside the boundaries of Dart’s exploration licence (PEL445), which includes Byron Shire and much of the Tweed.
‘This is a great result for these communities that have stood up in defence of their health, water and local industries by declaring themselves Gasfield Free. This is a great endorsement of Tweed Shire Council’s decision to stand with its community by calling for a moratorium and deciding to do all it could to keep CSG operations out of Tweed Shire.’
At the time of its withdrawal, Metgasco’s CEO Peter Henderson also cited changing state regulation as the reason for its withdrawal, pointing the finger at the state government banning mining within 2km of homes a month earlier.
‘The changes in procedures announced by the state government recently, upon which these and other CSG companies are basing their decisions to withdraw, only came about because of the immense pressure exerted by a genuinely broadly based community campaign through Lock the Gate Alliance,’ said Mr McNamara.
‘It may be no more than a coincidence that the share prices of both companies have taken a battering in recent months but this announcement by Dart also includes details of a massive downsizing in their operations worldwide.
‘They may dress it up by saying that they are going to concentrate on the UK, but the reality is that the CSG bubble has burst and investors are starting to see it for the house of cards that it is.
‘If Dart Energy are genuine, then they should relinquish their exploration licence.’
In February, Dart Energy acquired the exploration licence from Arrow Energy, months after Dart had been spun out from the Queensland-based Arrow in a strategic demerger. This was just before global giants Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina had acquired Arrow.
Dart Energy’s main Australian interests were at Fullerton Cove at Port Stephens, where it had already faced substantial local opposition. It also holds a 44,000 square kilometre exploration licence (PEL445) covering much of the northern rivers – from Tweed Heads in the north to Broadwater in the south and Drake the west – which it just purchased from Arrow Energy on February 5.
Meanwhile, Greens candidate for the seat of Richmond, Dawn Walker, says if elected she would introduce legislation to place a moratorium over CSG exploration and exploitation nationwide.
‘I am calling for an urgent national moratorium on coal seam gas mining and if elected would introduce legislation to create “CSG no go zones” to protect our productive farmland, villages, cultural heritage sites, national parks and water catchments from the potential harm of this unproven and high risk industry. The community know that their strongest voice against CSG is a Green one,’ said Ms Walker.
She also called on the NSW state Aboriginal Land Council to withdraw its application for a Special Prospecting Authority (PSPAPP55) over parts of Tweed Shire.
‘There is no significant support for the development of the CSG industry in the Tweed Shire; indeed there is entrenched opposition,’ she said.
‘It would be appropriate for the Land Council to stage a strategic withdrawal from this application.’
Denied proper information
Dart’s announcement also came less than 24 hours after a 4 Corners program in which a Queensland government whistleblower, Simone Marsh, revealed that in 2010 she and her colleagues were not given enough time or basic information to assess two southern Queensland projects worth $38 billion.
Ms Marsh, a senior environmentalist who has been on stress leave since being forced, with colleagues, to approve two massive projects in a matter of weeks, told 4 Corners, ‘I think the truth is it is obviously not an ecologically sustainable activity. Obviously they didn’t want to say that. They wanted approval to come in and conduct that activity. They didn’t want anyone to understand what the long term impacts were going to be or the long term costs.
‘It’s quite frightening that they would be asked to approve that kind of project without the normal information that a mining project would be asked to submit, given that this was 600 times the size of your standard large mine,’ she told the program.’