A ‘gasfield-free’ declaration by several rural communities around Byron shire yesterday came only hours before residents of a western Sydney housing estate were shocked to find gas leaking from an AGL coal-seam gas (CSG) well just 200 metres from their homes.
Anti-CSG campaigners have been outraged by the incident at Spring Farm near Campbelltown and the Greens have called for a shutdown of the industry, saying AGL has an abysmal record of breaching laws and been fined several times.
Fire crews, police and gas workers rushed to the AGL site near the housing estate last night after residents raised the alarm when they heard a loud hissing noise coming from the CSG well last night and smelt a strong odour of gas inside their homes.
An AGL spokesman told media that a safety release valve had been activated, causing the hissing noise and a small amount of gas to escape.
The spokesman told the ABC that at no time were residents at risk and the well had since been checked and now back operating.
But the Greens say the industry is unsafe, with mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham calling on the Baird government to investigate the incident, and that it was outrageous for the government to allow CSG wells to operate so close to residential areas.
Mr Buckingham said the company had an ‘abysmal record’ in south-western Sydney where it operated several CSG wells and had been ‘serially fined’ by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Lock the Gate co-ordinator for western Sydney, Dan Robins, told Echonetdaily that residents of Spring Farm ‘want answers’.
‘They want an independent investigation of the incident and want to know why they weren’t urgently informed about the event by AGL, instead of being left to deal with it alone,’ Mr Robins said.
‘This is yet another massive failure of AGL in providing basic information to community members.
‘The cocktail of gases from the coal seam, which includes methane and associated gases like volatile organic compounds, are not only noxious but also highly flammable.
‘There are major risks for families forced to live just 200 metres from an industrial gas field.
‘Spring Farm locals have already raised concerns about their health as a result of CSG, and this event only exacerbates their concerns.
‘The NSW government has failed the people of Spring Farm, doing nothing to protect them from a CSG well just 200 metres from their homes, despite introducing a two-kilometre buffer on houses elsewhere.
‘The NSW government needs to sort this out, families, residential estates and industrial gas fields just don’t mix. It’s far too risky,’ Mr Robins said.
Byron shire all CSG-free
Meanwhile, all of Byron shire has now been declared ‘gasfield-free’ following yesterday’s agreement by communities from hamlets around Coopers Shoot near Byron Bay to protect the region from gas-field developments.
It marks completion of all gasfield-free surveys in the shire, under the umbrella of the Lock the Gate Alliance and CSG Free Northern Rivers.
The survey was conducted by 12 locals who collected responses from 245 residents in the area, with a 97.9 per cent tally for the declaration.
The gathering presented mayor Simon Richardson with declaration certificates listing all the roads surveyed in the shire. Cr Richardson will give all certificates that he has collected from declarations across the shire to the minister for the north coast, Ballina MP Don Page.
The Coopers Shoot/Hayters Hill community is also planning to erect two signs at either end of Bangalow Road to announce the community’s commitment.
The shire has now declared all its roads ‘gasfield free’ and ‘protected by the will of the people’.
The declaration states that:
‘We recognise that our best defence is by standing together. If we detect any activity by gas companies here, we will raise an alert and ask their representatives to leave. We are committed to stopping gasfield industrialisation. In doing this, we protect the water, soil and air. We will protect our community from the destructive impacts of the gasfield industry.’