Santos’s $6.3 billion Narrabri coal seam gas field has been given the green light by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC), paving the way for the controversial project to go ahead.
In a move that has outraged environmental activists across the country, the proposal for 850 coal seam gas wells in the Pilliga region was given ‘phased approval’ by the IPC at 9am this morning.
In handing down the reasons for its decision, the commission said Santis would be required to meet strict conditions before it was allowed to begun construction and production.
‘The Commission imposed conditions requiring further information to improve the groundwater impact modelling before the Project proceeds to Phase 2 [construction],’ it said.
The potentially devastating effects of the project on ground water supplies in the area – crucial for both the health of local ecosystems as well as local farmers – have been among the biggest concerns over the project.
Opponents argued that insufficient modelling and research had been undertaken into the rock formations around the seams where the gas was located.
They have warned that, when mined, the fractures and faults in these formations could result in shallow ground water aquifers running dry.
The project, which is set to supply half of the State’s gas needs, was the subject of seven days of public hearings earlier this year and 400 public submissions, the majority of which argued against approval.
Gomeroi woman Polly Cutmore told the ABC that First Nations people would fight the decision.
‘The Pilliga is Gomeroi land and Santos is not welcome there,’ she said.