Anti-coal seam gas (CSG) campaigners involved in the successful Bentley blockade and around NSW are set to join around 30 farmers and residents of the Gloucester Valley in a protest vigil after the state government’s controversial approval for giant miner AGL to frack for gas on farmland near their homes.
The Liberal-National Party government’s decision has been condemned by Lock the Gate alliance and the Greens as ‘a dark day for NSW with the Baird government giving the green light to fracking again near people’s homes’.
The farmers’ protest vigil at the site where AGL plans to sink CSG wells and then mine using the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process is expected to swell in the next few weeks.
Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said ‘it’s outrageous that the people of Gloucester will have fracking within a few hundred metres of their homes, while people in Western Suburbs enjoy a two-kilometre buffer.
‘The community is overwhelmingly opposed, the scientists have warned of contamination of groundwater and the Manning River, and there is no clear plan to dispose of waste products,’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘The local community will blockade fracking in the Gloucester Valley, just as they resisted at Bentley in the northern rivers and elsewhere,’ he said.
Echonetdaily has been told campaigners angry at the approval have now set their sights on the Gloucester.
Last week, the government changed the key state planning policy for mining to relieve AGL of the obligation to get development consent and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for its Waukivory fracking project in the Gloucester Valley.
Earlier this week, state resources and energy minister Anthony Roberts renewed AGL’s petroleum exploration licence there for six years.
Within hours, trucks began to arrive to prepare the fracking site.
This morning, a protest vigil is underway at the entrance to the site.
Former Gloucester mayor Julie Lyford, at the protest site, said ‘AGL and its coal seam gas fracking are not welcome in this valley, but we have been abandoned to a fracking fate by the state government that has left Gloucester out of its coal seam gas reforms and changed the law to suit AGL and shaft the community.
‘Today is the beginning of a campaign of peaceful direct action to stop this fracking project. The government has failed to protect us. There’s no coal seam gas exclusion up here, no gateway, no protection, no buffer,’ mayor Lyford said.
Local cattle farmer Ed Robinson’s property is adjacent to AGL. He says he will take peaceful direct action and risk arrest to protect the Gloucester Valley.
Mr Robinson said, ‘We are taking a stand to protect our community from coal seam gas. We do not want this dangerous industry in our neighbourhood, and we will continue to fight until our valley is protected. Our commitment is non-violent, but it is non-negotiable.
‘This coal seam gas project has been foisted on us by a gas company with no interest in a sustainable and healthy future for our region, supported by short-sighted and compromised politicians and bureaucrats who are deaf to the wishes of our community.
‘We will be asking people from across the region and the state who value clean water and safe communities to support Gloucester to help us begin a peaceful blockade of this site, to show the Government that community power can achieve what they’re too weak to do.’
A protest against the fracking at Gloucester will also take place outside AGL’s headquarters at in North Sydney this morning at 10.30am.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Phil Laird said the announcement confirms the use of drilling and fracking by AGL within two kilometres of residents homes after the State Environment Planning Policy was changed to do so.
‘The new laws were designed specifically for Gloucester project in order to bypass the need for a full EIS and they took no time in giving the company the go ahead,’ Mr Laird said.
‘Recent buyouts of residents in the Tara Residential Estates show that CSG and people do not mix and the change of law to facilitate CSG production so near the township of Gloucester is abominable.
‘This is Anthony Roberts “Tara” moment when he crossed the line to favour frackers over ordinary people.
‘On a day when ICAC is casting a light on the corrupt mining and planning processes in NSW with more yet to be uncovered, we have a deal that fast tracks another resource project to the detriment of the local community of Gloucester.
‘As a result of this approval from the unelected body, the Office of CSG, the communities’ merits appeal rights to challenge the project are extinguished, something that ICAC expressly recommended to be retained.’
It’s believed AGL intends to ultimately frack several hundred wells in the area.
A spokesman for AGL told ABC that the project already been approved by the Planning Assessment Commission and upheld in the Land and Environment Court.
The spokesman said 12 wells in the Gloucester area and 117 wells aorund Camden south of Sydney had already been fracked with no impact.