UPDATE 5.30pm: PAGE Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan has welcomed the proposed rule changes for coal seam gas, describing them as a "step in the right direction".
Mr Hogan, who has previously said he opposed coal seam gas and would not want a drill site on or near his own farm, stopped short of saying he would push for the Federal coalition to back them.
"We obviously have to see the detail of it, so I can't say anything about that until I see the policy, but it's just a reaction that this seems to be moving in the direction of what our Federal (coalition) policy is, in that it doesn't impinge on ground water or surface water systems," he said.
UPDATE 2.30pm: NSW Farmers have welcomed new Federal rules that Page MP Janelle Saffin would effectively block coal seam gas production on the Northern Rivers.
In a statement, NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said her organisation was not opposed to coal seam gas but had "consistently" said it wanted "strong regulatory frameworks are required to place sensible limits on mining and coal seam gas activities".
""Farmers right across NSW have been calling on the NSW Government to deliver a more rigorous assessment process for mining and coal seam gas proposals," she said.
"It is not surprising the Federal Environment Minister has seen a need to step in. Improvements are still needed at a state level to give farmers and rural communities confidence that the risks to their land and water from CSG and large coal mining developments will be managed. "
Read Ms Simson's full statement here.
1.30pm: NEW rules requiring coal and coal seam gas drill sites to protect ground water under Federal environment laws, will effectively put an end to the aspirations of CSG companies on the Northern Rivers, Page MP Janelle Saffin has said.
Under new rules just announced today by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, coal seam gas companies will be forced to prove their drill sites do not endanger the water table before being allowed to drill.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the plans to change the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act at a press conference in Canberra, telling reporters it would allow the Commonwealth to extend its environmental powers to water where it releates to coal and coal seam gas.
Ms Saffin, who has been lobbying for the changes in Canberra, said the new rules were likely to go through Federal Parliament within the next week or two and would give the Government the power to individually examine every coal seam gas proposal on the Northern Rivers and refuse any application that endangered ground water.
The environmental review of coal seam gas sites would be carried out by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee currently charged with the job of doing bioregional assessments.
However, Ms Saffin said the introduction of the new rules would not necessarily mean an end to the test drilling currently being done on the Northern Rivers, such as that done recently by Metgasco at Doubtful Creek and Glenugie.
Under the changes, companies holding exploration licences would still be allowed to search for coal seam gas. However, any company wanting to upgrade to a full-blown drilling licence would then have to demonstrate the licence did not endanger ground water in the area of the site.
"With this amendment the Australian Labor Government is responding to community concern to ensure the long term health and viability of Australia's water resources," she said.
"This amendment means we have to take water into account for these kinds of projects, so I don't see how they will be able to go ahead.
"The states however, still have the power immediately to give us an exclusion zone for the Northern Rivers."
Read Janelle Saffin's statement on the new rules here.
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