Coal seam gas exploration has been put on hold in parts of Sydney’s drinking water catchment pending further study.
But the state government move has been dubbed ‘inadequate’ by Lock the Gate Alliance, which says the ban should extend to coal mining.
And the Greens argue that if the ban is good enough for Sydney’s water supply, all water catchments in the state should be equally protected.
NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher says, until there’s a better understanding of the potential impacts of extracting gas from coal seams, the government would impose an immediate hold in ‘special areas’ of the catchment.
Special areas are recognised due to their topography and importance in filtering surface waters that flow in to the catchment’s dams.
‘The NSW government recognises community concern that accessing and performing drilling in these pristine areas may have an effect on the drinking water supplies to Sydney and the Illawarra,’ the minister said in a statement.
Last month, the opposition introduced legislation to permanently ban CSG activity from catchment areas, with Opposition Leader John Robertson arguing the industry did not have the support of the community.
There are no existing approvals in place for drilling in the areas.
The hold will be imposed pending an investigation by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.
But Lock the Gate spokesperson Phil Laird said that if coal seam gas poses a risk to Sydney’s water, then it poses a risk to other water resources, too.
‘Right now, Santos are exploring for gas in a Great Artesian Basin recharge aquifer in the Pilliga. The threat to groundwater from coal seam gas is immediate and this moratorium must be immediately extended to meet that threat,’ he said.
‘The immediate threat to Sydney’s water catchment is from longwall coal mining, which has already cracked creek beds in the special areas. Last week, government MPs visited the damage wrought by coal in Sydney’s catchment and expressed their dismay that such impacts were lawfully inflicted. If the government wants to protect Sydney’s water, this moratorium must be extended to coal mining,’ he added.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckinham believes that the moratorium should apply equally across all drinking water catchments.
‘It’s not good enough to have one rule for some people and another rule for others,’ he told ABC radio this morning.