Federal member for Page, Labor’s Janelle Saffin, has joined in the chorus of disapproval against the NSW coalition state government over its handling of Metgasco’s sole CSG production licence.
On Monday, Echonetdaily reported that emails obtained by NSW Greens under freedom of information legislation show NSW energy minster Chris Hartcher wanted to approve the licence before all the conditions had been finalised.
Ms Saffin subsequently used the information to issue a media release of her own damning Mr Hartcher.
‘Minister Hartcher was so keen to approve CSG mining in our community that he could not even wait for a basic set of conditions to be drawn up,’ she said.
‘This speaks volumes about the real agenda of the Liberal National Party Coalition when it comes to CSG.
But the Greens’ Jeremy Buckingham, whose office uncovered the email exchange, has in turn hit back at Ms Saffin, accusing her of hypocrisy.
‘If Janelle Saffin is serious about stopping coal seam gas, she should publicly tell her state Labor colleagues to back the Greens’ amendments to give farmers and other landholders the right to say no to coal seam gas mining on their land,’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘Labor voted against the right to say no in the NSW Lower House, but have the opportunity to vote for the amendments to the Petroleum and Mining laws when it is debated in the Upper House later this month.
‘Labor Resources Minister Gary Gray told a gas industry conference last week that opposition to coal seam gas was an “absurd proposition”, yet Ms Saffin is running around saying she’s against coal seam gas. What is the Labor Party’s real position?
‘Janelle Saffin is criticising the Nationals on coal seam gas, but is she willing to stand up to her Labor Party colleagues and tell them they should vote in state parliament to give farmers the right to say no to gas mining?’
Ms Saffin, meanwhile, has highlighted the need for support for federal government water trigger legislation, saying ‘it makes it even more urgent [for] the Senate to pass the federal government’s amendments to the EP&BC Act… so that our water is protected.
‘The federal Liberal National coalition has vowed to completely gut these new laws if they are elected. They want to hand back these water protection responsibilities to the state government, back to the very government that wants to approve CSG drilling before a list of conditions is even drawn up!’
The Greens, meanwhile, claim to have uncovered ‘collusion’ between the government and Metgasco over the timing of the announcement of the production licence.
One of the released emails, written by Lindsay Cohen, departmental liaison officer – resources, Office of the Minister for Resources and Energy, dated 21 August last year, reads: ‘Metgasco advised the Minister that it would be premature for the approval to be signed and announced yet as there would be ASX/share price ramifications that need to be planned for. They also would prefer it to be grouped with the conditional approval and subsequent announcement of the PELs as discussed in Cabinet. Minister [Hartcher] advises this is unlikely to be approved until after the local council elections on Sept 8.’
In an interview with ABC radio yesterday, Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson denied any knowledge of the email exchange and instead turned on the government, claiming they should have approved the production licence two years earlier, when the company received DA approval for a Casino-based power station in 2010.
‘The production licence we applied for, we started in about 2007. A development approval was issued in June 2010. Normally, the issue of a production licence is automatic, ie next week,’ he told the ABC North Coast morning program.
‘But because the NSW government came in and effectively put a moratorium on the industry for 18 months, we did not get the offer of it until September 2012, after new regulations were put in place. So I think on any reasonable measure, you’d have to criticise the government for taking two years to get a basic, standard production licence, which has been through all the appropriate approvals, issued to us.’
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