Government defeats Greens’ CSG ban bill in NSW parliament

Jeremy Buckingham at the Bentley Blockade. (file pic)

Jeremy Buckingham at the Bentley Blockade. (file pic)

Chris Dobney

Updated, 2pm: The NSW government this morning voted down a Greens bill that would have permanently protected the northern rivers from CSG mining and placed a moratorium on CSG exploration across the state.

The bill was defeated 16-19, with the ALP and Christian Democrats voting with the Greens following some ALP amendments.

Despite early indications to the contrary, the Shooters and Fishers Party failed to support bill.

In the public gallery, dozens of people from CSG-affected communities watched on as the votes were cast.

Lock the Gate NSW coordinator Georgina Woods said, ‘Today the NSW government, including the NSW National Party, hung their constituents out to dry on CSG.

‘By nailing its colours to the mast of the CSG industry this morning, the NSW government has committed itself to a dead-end path that will only lead to more determined community action.

‘We are grateful to the Christian Democrats, the Greens, the Labor Party, and the Animal Justice Party for building a unique political consensus and taking this bill to the very brink of success.

‘We know that real change is incredibly close, and we will take this result as a signal to redouble our efforts to defend our land and water resources from this dangerous industry.

‘The NSW Gas Plan is dead in the water after its central premise that CSG was needed to meet a gas supply shortfall was comprehensively debunked by the Australian Energy Market Operator

‘The only genuine path forward is to respond to community concern and rein in the industry.

‘The next phase of the community campaign to protect NSW from risky and unwanted CSG developments begins today’ she said.

 Original report:

A bill that would potentially ban exploration for CSG and other unconventional gas throughout the state is set to be debated in the NSW upper house today.

The bill, drawn up by Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham, seeks to end all unconventional gas exploration in the state but would allow existing CSG production licences to continue so long as fracking is not required.

It would effectively mothball all existing exploration licences, including Metgasco’s in the northern rivers, AGL’s at Camden and Santos’ at Narrabri.

No compensation

A spokesperson for Mr Buckingham said no compensation would be payable for the cancellation of licences.

‘The bill amends the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 by inserting a new part which makes it an offence to prospect for or mine coal seam gas and other unconventional gas in all areas of NSW. Under this part compensation is not payable by or on behalf of the state because of this change,’ the spokesperson said.

‘The bill prevents the minister from granting new, or renewing existing, petroleum titles relating to coal seam gas but it does not directly cancel existing petroleum licenses, although it renders them useless. If passed, however, this bill will give the minister the ability to cancel licenses without compensation where it is in the public interest to do so.

‘This is done by reinstating the public interest test which was introduced by the government in the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Public Interest) Act 2013, but was subsequently repealed by the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment Act 2014, with support from the Labor party.

‘At the time the public interest test was used to cancel three coal licenses, which had been granted by corrupt former Labor minister Ian Macdonald, without compensation. The ability for the minister to use this provision to cancel a license without compensation was recently upheld by the High Court,’ the spokesperson said.

The bill, if passed, would prevent Metgasco from drilling at Bentley as this would count as prospecting for coal seam gas. It would also allow the minister to then cancel all the licenses across the region without any compensation being payable.

Metgasco’s existing application for a Petroleum Production License would not be approved as the bill prevents the minister from granting new petroleum titles.

ALP amendments

The Labor Party has sought a range of amendments to the bill in exchange for supporting it, which have yet to be considered.

The main change would be to convert the ban into a moratorium until all conditions outlined in last year’s report by the NSW Chief Scientist are met.

There would be a range of conditions imposed upon the lifting of the moratorium but no exact time-frame set.

The northern rivers would be excised from the CSG exploration and production zone, as per the ALP’s state election promise.

The spokesperson for Mr Buckingham told Echonetdaily the Greens would ‘be very pragmatic in accepting amendments to get the bill through the upper house and to the lower house.’

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