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Metgasco to take legal action

Darren Coyne

After failing to storm the Bentley blockade, mining company Metgasco is taking its fight to the bar.

The company announced yesterday that it would ask the NSW Supreme Court to set aside the suspension of its licence to drill the Rosella well at Bentley, just outside Lismore.

The company also announced that it would ask the court to rule that it had complied with its community consultation obligations, and also indicated it would explore whether it might claim compensation for the suspension.

Gasfield-Free Northern Rivers says the decision is evidence of the company’s ‘recalcitrant attitude’ towards the community.

“Instead of a mea culpa from Metgasco, we get yet more crash through tactics. Metgasco has shown consistently that it prefers the use of massive policing or lawyers at 40 paces to genuine community consultation”, said spokesperson Mr Aidan Ricketts.

“The glaring irony is that when faced with the argument that they have failed in their community consultation obligations, their response is a combative one. It is a self defeating proposition.”

He said the case was a ‘rare example’ of a government listening to the community but added that the government ‘would not be faced with this litigation now if it had retained that power to cancel mining and petroleum licences on public interest grounds.’

The state government recently repealed the public interest ground for the cancellation of mining and petroleum licences.

“Mining legislation needs a complete overhaul so that proper democratic and public interest values are given precedence over cosy arrangements for the industry”, Mr Ricketts said.

 Falling share price

The request for a judicial review follows reports indicating the ICAC referral and suspension led to $18 million being wiped off the company’s share value last month.

Shares were trading at $0.049 yesterday, after sitting around $1.50 back in 2008.

Echonetdaily reported yesterday that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption was not proceeding further with NSW energy minister Anthony Roberts’s referral of Metgasco over its shareholding.

But the flipside was that the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas was holding fast on its decision to suspend the licence, inviting the company to make further submissions by Friday regarding its community consultation process.

In a confidential letter to Metgasco’s lawyers released by the company, the ICAC said it could only investigate  information that suggested there was ‘a reasonable likelihood that a public official had engaged in corrupt conduct.’

‘Private sector individuals and/or companies may fall within the ICAC’s jurisdiction where their conduct adversely effects, either directly or indirectly, the exercise of official functions by a public official and/or authority’, the letter said.

The letter from the ICAC goes on to say there ‘is no information currently before the commission that Metgasco’s share arrangements fall within the ICAC’s jurisdiction’.

Fundamental concerns

Nevertheless, Mr Roberts maintained that Metgasco’s licence was suspended due to concerns the company had not adequately consulted with the community.

He said the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas had advised him the community had expressed ‘fundamental concerns’ about the way in which Metgasco had characterised its activities.

The OCSG had given Metgasco until this Friday to provide further submissions regarding its community consultation process, which anti-gas campaigners have consistently described as ‘inadequate’, ‘misguided’, or most recently, ‘miserable’.

Lock the Gate’s northern rivers spokesman Ian Gaillard said this week that the company’s idea of consultation was ‘to tell the community how they were going to go about doing something instead of listening to concerns being raised by various sectors’.

The OCSG had told Metgasco ‘that works could be recommenced under the activity approval once an acceptable community consultation plan is in place and the company demonstrates an ability to appropriately engage with the community, in compliance with relevant obligations under PEL 16.’

Meanwhile, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association yesterday told the Australian newspaper, ‘The industry is concerned that the presence of protesters at an operational site should not mean that genuine consultation with the community has been ineffective.’


17 responses to “Metgasco to take legal action”

  1. Bruce Prior says:

    Meanwhile, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association yesterday told the Australian newspaper, ‘The industry is concerned that the presence of protesters at an operational site should not mean that genuine consultation with the community has been ineffective.’

    Any spin will do…… The farmers were swayed by the townies…… They never would have opposed it if we had not interfered. Now take a firm grip on the straw and pull!!!!

    What a lot of baloney!! What they will now want is a ban on third parties in a protest!!!

  2. earthlover says:

    “Shares were trading at $0.049 yesterday, after sitting around $1.50 back in 2008″… Er, and the shares were dropping gradually all that time… 2008 was 6 years ago! Minister Robert’s announcement was last month! Metgasco needs to get a grip on reality! It’s obvious that Peter Henderson will say anything to placate his distraught shareholders, but the fact is that nothing he will say regarding his farcical attempts at “community consultation” will dissuade the community…

    “The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association yesterday told the Australian newspaper, ‘The industry is concerned that the presence of protesters at an operational site should not mean that genuine consultation with the community has been ineffective.’ When approximately 90% of the community is vehemently opposed to this company’s presence in our region, it is quite clear that “genuine consultation with the community has been ineffective”.

    Over two years ago, whilst lunching with a friend, I met a local man, her neighbour, who swore blind that he understood all about Metgasco’s activities as his father was an engineer. With his worthy background knowledge, he assured me that he could see absolute nothing worrying about it, and he inferred that those arguing against CSG were a bunch of fruit loops. I had to summon what politeness I could because I was a guest, but I was seething at his myopic ignorance. Fast forward to present. That same local is now a very active protester. He researched, and listened, and is very, very concerned.

    “Community consultation”, my proverbial backside!

  3. Richard Swinton says:

    I see 2 possible reasons for the charge of inadequate community consultation;

    First, that they ‘characterised’ the proposal as drilling for ‘conventional’ gas, whereas the reality is it is a tight gas well needing fraccing. This apparently meant that the approval process was simpler, and the hope may have been that the community would not be so nervous.

    Second, the inference seems to be that adequate community consultation would persuade the community that gas drilling was acceptable. Nothing could be further from the truth – the more ‘consultation’, the more the community decided it didn’t want gas exploration and possible subsequent development under any circumstances.

    In a letter to the minister, I likened the inference to that of a fantasy World Government in 1942 demanding that Hitler not invade England without first conducting an adequate community consultation which would apparently be expected to convince the english that the invasion was acceptable!

    The community does not want gas drilling in the northern rivers region – under any circumstances!! The risks to our water are too high, The destruction of the land values (capital and scenic and agricultural) is unacceptable, The industrialisation of the area is well outside the community expectation of our region, and the impact of further fossil fuel development on climate change is also unacceptable.

  4. NathanBrooklet says:

    Can either our councils or a local group present a class action against Metgasco given the many costs, both financial and non financial, required by the community to fight a company operating without the required social license? We could collectively look at all the related costs and work out how to present them as a group. Crazy? Maybe not the actions of people with good-will, or common sense, but when faced with Metgasco’s spurious actions a claim for the burden they have placed on the Northern Rivers may be a good strategic move.

  5. Peter F says:

    The majority of protestors against Metgasco came from all over the country. Mostly on one form of government benefit or another. The video I saw looked like a hippie commune. They washed in the river (well some of them looked like they washed) with detergents … The protestors did more environmental damage than a well would ever have done. Maybe some of the protestors could go and get a job and stop consuming the tax dollars that most of us have to pay each year, so they can roam around the country and protest? The landowner had signed off and was happy to have the well drilled so the rest of them should bugger off and go and grow their dreadlocks somewhere else.

    • Raucous Reg says:

      Ah, the video filmed under false pretenses and then edited, often very clumsily, to present a false impression of the protectors? the video jumped on by narrow minded op-ed writers like Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair? Strange that such supposed intellectual giants didn’t see it for what it was, but perhaps they didn’t try!?!

      Your best move would be to look at some of the videos posted in the comments and watch them – you may get something called “balance”!

  6. Ken says:

    “The pursuit of money is the root of all evil “……and if there isn’t enough … in this sorry fiasco to interest ICAC, then a royal commission is called for. If that isn’t enough … then the share registry needs to be made public so that it is evident who are benefiting from this mindless environmental destruction …

  7. earthlover says:

    Oh, and If Metgasco chooses to initiate legal action against the Office of Coal Seam Gas, it seems only balanced for all those impacted negatively by Metgasco’s inadequate … “community consultation” to enter into a class action against them. Compensation to the people of the Norhern Rivers, taking into account month upon month of stress affecting health and wellbeing, the necessity to take time away from work and family to fight this insidious industry, and already deflated property prices and inability to sell due to the CSG industry’s reputation for environmental damage hovering like a dark cloud over us all, should surely see Metgasco’s shares heading out backwards!

  8. Odette Nightsky says:

    Consultation with the community?? I think not. The community said and still says NO!!

  9. nosocialicence says:

    It seems to me that so many high profile Ex-Feds politicians have been lobbying for this Gas Industry to take off in our region such as Rudd, working for CSG U of Q , Fergusson now working for the APPEA Industry…..and in NSW ex minister Obeid and Hatcher,George and what about his son Stuart working for Metgasco and Casino Council at the same time and Page all disregarding and ignoring the overwhelming opposition and calling it “emotive” and recently comparing it to the fervour of religion and trying to discredit the will of the people who live here and are passionate about the clean environment and completely oppose the Metgasco operations given the risks to the environment which is highly valued in this region and has been olympically rejected by the communities. Metgasco is doing a terrible PR job by not facing the evident reality and this position says a lot about the Gas Industry forcing itself into our region where they h face overwhelming opposition by the people who call the Northern Rivers home.. One thing is for sure that the overwhelming majority of NSW population is opposed to this invasive and destructive industry and given the precedents we know that for every strict regulation there is a cheap fee for breaching the “strict regulation eg.Aquifer vcontamination $ 1500-how convenient for the industry…For every strict regulation there is a loophole and what about the denial of responsabilities when the problematic operations go wrong!..We dont buy it.Gas not welcome.Gas not safe Gas not clean.Its a scam that we cannot embrace nor accept.The impacts are so extensive !No way to the gateway.Not at our expense.

  10. Anson says:

    The interesting thing about courtrooms is that all the facts are exposed to the light of day. The reality of Metgascos activities will be unearthed for the world to examine. The Gov will fight claw over claw to defend itself and would undoubtedly try siding with the Protecters. Let the showbegin! This latest fiasco is the most disingenious move yet! All in an attempt to prove ‘ but we cant possibly be wrong…’ This can only help to raise the share price. Of course! Of course. Bring it on , I say

  11. JB says:

    Richard Swinton- why is the industrialisation of your area unacceptable when your standard of living or that of many in the Nortern Rivers depends on the industrialisation of other areas that you do not live in. Your position is unbalanced and hypocritical. The fact is that we all must make compromises if we are to use electricity, drive cars and cook with gas. You people are dreamers. I ask myself when I see most ( certainly not all) of the protestors. What heavy lifting have they endured to make our society the envy of the world? There are mature students who have classes on only a few days in the week, there are drifters in their combis who, in all likelihood draw some form of social security and do not have full time jobs, there are naturopaths who perform massages part of the year in Bali. I concede this does not apply to all…but does apply to an abnormally high percentage. How can people like this consistently enjoy the fruits of hard work and agitate against itcat the same time? As a test, if we took all use of petrol from them….do you see them being agreeable to that ? If we took away Aidan Rickets privelege of transport in a petrol driven vehicle…do you thing his attitude would change ? Ask yourself honestly and seriously .

    • Raucous Reg says:

      Another devotee of Bolt and Blair! The easiest thing for you to do is look at some of the “real” portrayals of protectors – there are lots on YouTube, even in the comments on your pet video! Interesting that the guy whose channel it’s on has made most of his other videos private given that they consisted mainly of other pro-gas propaganda!

      Your broader argument is best described as reductio ad absurdum – hardly worthy of a response!

      As a side note, I’m glad to see your contribution here as it makes a lie of your rant elsewhere:”I tried to post a comment in the designated space on the web site which the above link leads to. It is published by Echo- the green on line news. Funny thing is that my comments were not received immediately as they would be on *** ****** (then subsequently patrolled by **). In other words comments on Echo are screened before they are posted thereby filtering out counter argument.” Given that ** has effectively banned every poster opposed to your ecocidal investment (Stock Held; Long Term Buy) actual freedom of speech must be hard for you to understand. Your usual milieu has redefined “discussion” to mean the mutually supportive ramblings of a group of failed investors – something of a self-help group more than a discussion forum!

  12. Bonny says:

    I agree about the lack of community consultation and what there was of it was very misleading.

    Personally I have no idea what Metgasco is drilling for. One day it’s natural gas, then it’s conventional gas and then it’s tight sands gas.

    Are they drilling one well or 1000 wells? Can’t image 1000 wells on that small property but who knows with this industry.

    I have many more questions and many more conflicting answers.

  13. JB says:

    Raucous Reg,
    Let me point out the flaws in your post.
    Wrong -“another devotee of Bolt and Blair.” How would you know? You have zero evidence. What about Jones? Or is his well known leaning against CSG making your stance biased?

    Wrong- “The easiest thing for you to do is look at some of the “real” portrayals of protectors – there are lots on YouTube, even in the comments on your pet video! ” I have just had a look ….and more of the same. Also, you conveniently ignore the qualification in my statement….(certainly not all)….have another look at what I wrote and have the decency to admit that you have ignored this in your reply.

    Wrong- “reducto ad absurdum-hardly worth a response”. Description: A mode of argumentation or a form of argument in which a proposition is disproven by following its implications logically to an absurd conclusion. Arguments which use universals such as, “always”, “never”, “everyone”, “nobody”, etc., are prone to being reduced to absurd conclusions. The fallacy is in the argument that could be reduced to absurdity — so in essence, reductio ad absurdum is a technique to expose the fallacy.

    Logical Form:

    Assume P is true.
    From this assumption, deduce that Q is true.
    Also deduce that Q is false.
    Thus, P implies both Q and not Q (a contradiction, which is necessarily false).
    Therefore, P itself must be false.

    You credit me with using a form of argument which has been used before and since Ancient Greece to this day and then say “hardly worth a response”. Before you start to quote Ancient Greek forms of argument, I suggest you take the trouble to understand what they mean.

    Wrong-“makes a lie of your rant elsewhere.” The point I made is – if you took the trouble to read it properly- that on this web site it is not possible to make an immediate post that gets shown straight away. There is an up front filter, a hurdle that must first be crossed. This is true, despite what you say. Yes, the post was eventually shown but, as I say, only once it had been vetted. That’s all I said and it is so.

    Unanswered questions-I asked some questions in my post and you have not answered them.

    Q1. Richard Swinton- why is the industrialisation of your area unacceptable when your standard of living or that of many in the Nortern Rivers depends on the industrialisation of other areas that you do not live in. Your position is unbalanced and hypocritical. The fact is that we all must make compromises if we are to use electricity, drive cars and cook with gas.

    Q2. How can people like this consistently enjoy the fruits of hard work and agitate against it at the same time? As a test, if we took all use of petrol from them….do you see them being agreeable to that ? If we took away Aidan Rickets privelege of transport in a petrol driven vehicle…do you thing his attitude would change ? Ask yourself honestly and seriously .

    Raucus, my dear fellow,CSG aside, I have nothing against you or against the protestors at Bentley. I think nature lovers have their heart in the right place – that’s why I like them. If I may say so though, it is important to be circumspect. It is not all about what or how one feels….there is also hard reason, hard truths. How do we get energy without some collateral risk and maybe even some damage? What is the alternative? You tell me, because I would like to know. And the millions in China who suffer from smog….gas from Northern Rivers would indirectly reduce their plight. Don’t you think the risks in Northern Rivers would be offset many times over by the benefits to people in China?

    Let’s have a conversation not a schoolyard squabble.

    • Raucous Reg says:

      JB my friend, at the risk of being deemed to be squabbling you forget I read the rabid diatribes you and your cohort regularly engage in on a certain “discussion” site! I didn’t see you commenting on the obvious flaws in your pet video when links to both Bolt and Blair’s pieces were posted there. (Of course no-one else pointed them out because you (in the plural) have ensured that all opposing voices are banned. I assume this is what you describe as free speech – I have often seen your pharmaceutical friend encouraging the members of your self-help group to hound anyone posting what he deems unorthodox comments/posts until they are banned.)

      You are happy to accept a video as representative of the Bentley protectors which is posted by a known pro-gas advocate, is obviously designed as a propaganda piece and is selectively (and in part very poorly) edited to create a particular impression. To you, all that is important is that that impression meets your preconceptions/ agenda. A video such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Vjzi-O-RE is equally representative as the one you so adore, but you dismiss it as “more of the same”! Time you took your gas-goggles off my friend!

      My apologies – your argument isn’t reductio ad absurdum, it’s reductio ad ridiculum, also known as the appeal to ridicule: “Appeal to Ridicule is based on highlighting the counter-intuitive aspects of the argument to make it appears foolish as it looks clearly contrary to common sense. The argument’s logic is presented in an extremely absurd way and sometimes oversimplified. This process involves Appealing to Consequences. … An evil character can use this fallacy to get a laugh out of the uneducated masses while dismissing his opponent’s views” This is exactly the technique you have used in your initial post – if the Northern rivers are not transformed into an industrial wasteland there will still be electricity and petrol – to suggest otherwise is absurd, (hence my previous mistake).

      This was obviously your first post on a newspaper web-site, but you may be surprised to hear that comments are, in my experience, always scrutinized before publication, not just in “the green on line news”. Obviously this prevents material being published which could result in legal problems for the publisher – even your beloved ** does similar, although such choice items as your school teacher associate calling on another poster to “get the boys together and go and kick some hippy heads in”, the calls for vigilantism, or the charming comments about not discriminating against the elderly – “they should have their heads cracked as well” (I think your associate said), are often left unchallenged. Most of the ones I’ve mentioned are still there but you (Plural) have posters banned for any triviality if they disagree with your narrow world view.

      I am glad to see your admission that Northern Rivers gas will go to address the plight of those poor Chinese – perhaps you didn’t read about the massive investment the Chinese are making in solar?

      I assume you will copy and paste this for the delectation of the fellow members of your self-help group, so can I mention that the research you were so merrily criticising a few days ago has been published in one peer-reviewed journal and is approved for another? Unfortunately, your (plural) campaign to eliminate all opposition has meant those FACTS were never posted there to disturb your cozy world view.

      Dream on, my friend, but I doubt there will ever be gas mining in the Northern Rivers. Despite this, the world will not end, lights will still turn on and cars will still drive along the roads. You will, of course, have lost your money, but that is your poor decision making!

  14. Bonny says:

    China’s smog problem is not the problem of the residents of the Northern Rivers. It is none of our business.

    Why should we allow the industrialisation of our area so that China can reduce it’s smog. Anyway gas is just as dirty as coal so I can’t see that it will fix China’s problem anyway.

    Many of us in the Northern Rivers now solar energy to power our homes and hot water. If there was a cheap alternative to fossil fuel driven cars we would embrace it.

    My position is not unbalanced or hypocritical…it is very simple.

    I don’t want gas mining in the Northern Rivers as there are no benefits for me or for the majority of the people who live in this area.

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