Yesterday a 104-page report was released by the parliamentary inquiry into the CSG industry in NSW detailing how the NSW Government has failed to fully implement the majority of the NSW Chief Scientist’s 16 recommendations from 2014
In February 2013, former NSW Premier Mr Barry O’Farrell commissioned the then NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, to carry out an independent review of coal seam gas activities in New South Wales.
This inquiry was self-referred on Thursday 3 October 2019 to inquire into and report on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the NSW Chief Scientist’s Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales.
On Tuesday 3 December 2019, the committee resolved to extend the reporting date to Friday 28 February 2020.
The Committee members were Mark Banasiak MLC, Lou Amato MLC, Ms Abigail Boyd MLC, Catherine Cusack MLC, Mr Justin Field MLC, Trevor Khan MLC, Peter Primrose MLC and Adam Searle MLC.
The Hon Mark Banasiak MLC
In the Chair’s foreword, The Hon Mark Banasiak MLC said the inquiry was established to examine the status of implementation of the 16 recommendations made in the 2014 Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW by the NSW Chief Scientist.
‘During this inquiry, the divergent views on the government’s implementation of the recommendations became apparent to the committee,’ he said.
‘According to the NSW Government and industry stakeholders, all recommendations except for two have been implemented, with the two outstanding recommendations (Recommendations 4 and 9) considered as “in progress”. However, for all other inquiry participants, the recommendations have not been implemented fully or, in some cases not at all, further exacerbating fears and concerns about the impact of the coal seam gas activities.
‘It also became apparent to the committee that in the five years since the release of the NSW Chief Scientist’s report, public communication and access to information about coal seam gas activities has not improved, with efforts by stakeholders to gain information often unsuccessful.
‘The committee has therefore recommended that the NSW Government commit to further improving the accessibility and transparency of information relating to coal seam gas and the wider gas sector through the SEED portal, and through regular updates and accessible links to information on the EPA website.
‘This inquiry has been an important check and balance on the government’s implementation of the NSW Chief Scientist’s 16 recommendations.
‘While the committee acknowledges the efforts of the government to date in implementing these recommendations there is clearly more work to be done.
‘Where the committee has identified that the government has not implemented the recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist in full, we have recommended that all outstanding aspects of each recommendation be implemented.’
From the grass roots
The findings and recommendations of the report validate the tireless hard work of the many communities who have been at war with the industry for a long time, up to ten years in some cases.
Annie Kia from The Channon co-developed the grassroots democracy process Gasfield Free Communities. Annie says the failure of the government to implement what the Chief Scientist advised shows they’re either unwilling or unable to manage risks associated with coal seam gas. ‘It is especially worrying that, contrary to what the Chief Scientist recommended, farmers would bear “uninsurable risks” associated with an invasive gasfield.’
Ms Kia says the report has exposed a spectacular failure. ‘The government must now declare a moratorium on unconventional gasfields in this state.
‘To do anything other at this point would be to signal contempt for farming communities of the NSW northwest. The assessment process for the Narrabri CSG project must be stopped.
‘These farming communities have suffered enough through years of drought. It’s time to get this yoke off their necks. They’ve made their wishes abundantly clear by doing comprehensive surveys of the houses in their districts, with 93% of respondents wanting to be Gasfield Free.
‘More than 100 communities in the NSW Northwest declared themselves Gasfield Free following this process.
‘Can we just respect them now and liberate them from uncertainty?
‘Safeguards can’t be provided, so it’s time to put a lid on this dangerous, unwanted industry.’
A win at Bentley but the fight goes on
Bentley farmer Meg Nielsen has not rested on her laurels since the win in the Northern Rivers, she is still active in putting a stop to CSG mining. She says Morrison’s attempt to bribe NSW into opening up new gas fields must not be allowed to proceed. ‘Though the CSG industry prefers the friendly sounding term “natural gas”, methane is undeniably a many times more damaging greenhouse gas than CO2.
‘Add to that the fact that it is many times more expensive than solar and wind, even with storage added, you have an insane choice for a transition fuel.
‘Nearly six years later, the NSW government has yet to implement the recommendations of their own Chief Scientist’s Report. Too hard?
‘The unequivocal need for urgent action to reduce global heating demands a moratorium on CSG and other unconventional gas mining.’
The voice of experience
Drew Hutton has witnessed the devastation visited upon his home town of Chinchilla in Queensland. He has seen first hand what the CSG industry can do to a town and it’s not pretty, but more than that, it’s not healthy and it’s not safe.
Hutton says this current process has become a hallmark of collusion between the gas industry and state governments. ‘The government initiates an inquiry which then outlines a comprehensive regulatory framework for the industry. The government then states it will implement all recommendations of the inquiry but it does none or very little. The gas companies get away with murder with the connivance of state governments.’
The battle still rages in the North West
Mullaley farmer Robyn King is still fighting for a win over Santos and the Narrabri Gas Project in North Western New South Wales and she says enough is enough!
‘Until the Chief Scientist’s recommendations are met, there must be a moratorium on CSG extraction.
‘It is only people power that has maintained pressure on the NSW government to act with some form of integrity and conduct the enquiry into the CSG industry in NSW. Now that the report has been released, the people who have fought to protect this state from CSG have been vindicated.
‘Only a reckless, negligent government would approve a CSG project that overlays a recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin.
‘Only an unethical government would contemplate approving a CSG project where the applicant, Santos, has stated in the referral to the Federal Government 2014 (Ref. Referral to Commonwealth under Federal Environment Law – page 65) that depressurisation will have a significant impact on the groundwater resources of the Gunnedah – Oxley Basin. (The Gunnedah Oxley Basin extends from Boggabilla in the North to Mudgee in the South.)
‘As most of the state was enduring devastating and prolonged drought the government’s kneejerk reaction was to cry “build dams, dams and more dams”.
‘We already have the largest, most wonderful groundwater source in the world and 22 % of the population depends on it. Industry, towns, agriculture depend on it.
‘The government must protect the Great Artesian Basin from CSG extraction.
‘There is something intrinsically wrong with any government that allows a gas company cartel unfettered export of gas and yet is contemplating the construction of import terminals to buy back the gas we have exported.’
If you need more convincing that this industry is wrong on all levels, watch this: