A ratepayer told Richmond Valley Council (RVC) last night that Metgasco was seeking state government approval to drill at one of three sites in the Bentley region.
But RVC will not revisit its controversial ‘positioning statement’ on CSG and unconventional gas mining, despite exhortations from Bentley resident Liz Stops at council’s public access last night.
General manager John Walker also revealed the company had been in discussions regarding solar energy projects but they had ultimately been deemed ‘not economically viable’.
RVC is alone among north coast councils in supporting unconventional gas mining and last year the council agreed on the statement that called on the state government to adequately control the industry and conduct baseline studies. It also asked the industry to work co-operatively with residents and undertake its financial obligations and remediation.
Most controversially it called on CSG opponents to accept ‘cohabitation rather than blanket opposition’ to CSG
RVC abandoned the positioning statement in June this year after Metgasco announced it was mothballing its plans for the region.
Mr Walker responded on behalf of mayor Ernie Bennett (who was absent owing to a family death) and reminded councillors that it is within their right to raise the matter individually, but said ‘it is not technically possible to revisit the statement as requested as it has been abandoned’.
Ms Stops asked the council about ‘Metgasco’s current application to the NSW state government for approval to drill at one of three sites in Bentley/Bungabee and Ian McFarlane’s recent statement that “the Abbott government would also drive the expansion of NSW’s coal seam gas sector”, along with his timetabled visit to this area in October’.
‘Lying to Stock Exchange’
Mr Walker said there was ‘no evidence in a change of Metgasco’s position in this particular local government area (LGA) or the government’s attitude at this time’.
He said that if there was any change it could only come about if Metgasco had ‘lied to the stock exchange’.
‘People must be aware that lying to the stock exchange is a criminal offence,’ said Mr Walker.
In a statement to the stock exchange on September 9, the chairman of Metgasco said he saw no change in the operating environment for his company in the next 12 months, and without a change they would not pursue any activity.
‘This is my understanding of their plan,’ Mr Walker said. ‘We have not been advised of any proposed change to the operating environment by any level of government, or any agency of government or any change of policy at any level of government.
Mr Walker said ‘my recommendation to Council if I were to put a report forward would be that nothing has really changed since the June meeting and it is not the time for Council to make a statement on this subject until things change’.
Potentially lethal situation
Ms Stops referred to a ‘potentially lethal situation near Casino Airport during decommissioning of the Kingfisher E01, when 200 metres of drill rod and milling tool exploded from the well,’ when requesting RVC to revisit their Positioning Statement.
Mr Walker said, ‘the Kingfisher well did suffer a blowout, not an explosion, on July 14 while being decommissioned’.
‘All matters relating to safety and environment were handled according to state government requirements and regulations,’ Mr Walker said, ‘and the well is now successfully and completely decommissioned.
‘The decommissioning program for all wells in the RVC area have also now been completed,’ said Mr Walker, ‘and the decommissioning of the ponds is also nearly complete.
‘As far as I am aware no further drilling approvals of any type have been granted in our area, although there may have been some applied for.’
Ms Stops asked the council for their progress on initiating renewable resource projects in the Richmond Valley, an outcome from the Community Strategic Plan meeting held by Council earlier this year. Ms Stops also asked if there could be further community involvement.
Mr Walker said, ‘we remain keen to explore all business opportunities in the RVC area that create growth opportunity and jobs, including opportunities in renewable resources’.
‘Discussions have been held with interested parties in this sector in recent times,’ Mr Walker said, ‘but at this time no projects have been deemed economically viable. Those projects are in solar, not in the area of wind or alternate [sic] energies.
‘And would the community be involved? The answer is Yes.’