The state opposition claims it has uncovered the ‘smoking gun’ in the government’s recent renewal of a coal seam gas (CSG) exploration licence for the Lismore area which gives the green light to on-the-ground exploration activities.
The NSW government earlier this month announced it had awarded Dart Energy a six-year renewal of its Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 445 , which covers a vast swathe of the state’s north coast.
The announcement by energy minister Anthony Roberts came despite a moratorium on the issuing of new CSG exploration licences and drew howls of protest from local communities, the Greens and Labor.
The coalition was accused of changing the boundaries of the licence to try to take the electoral heat out of the issue: CSG licences still cover the hinterland and river catchments.
Yesterday Labor’s north coast spokesman Walt Secord said the government’s Office of Coal Seam Gas supported the expansion of CSG mining activities for PEL 445 around Lismore.
‘In Section 4.4 of the Resources Minister’s PEL 445 renewal document, it clearly reads that the National Party has given permission to Dart Energy to engage in activity such as “drilling, seismic surveys or road construction” on a yet to be announced scale,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The National Party’s CSG expansion agenda is laid bare: we call on National Party MP for Lismore Thomas George to explain why his resources minister signed a four year “blank cheque” allowing Dart Energy to ramp-up CSG and unconventional gas mining from 2016.
(Mr George is yet to comment on the claim.)
‘It is no surprise that the National Party did not release this document when they announced their six-year renewal of PEL 445.
‘This document is the paper equivalent of a smoking gun.’
The renewed licence conditions say that only low-impact exploration activities, such as geophysical surveys and logging of existing bores, can be carried out in the first two years, but greater-impact activities such as drilling and road construction needed further assessment from the Office of CSG.
CSG mining and exploration on the north coast has clearly become one of the biggest election issues for the upcoming March state election, with the Greens against the industry getting a foothold anywhere in the state and Labor promising to ban it on the north coast.