VOICES FOR THE EARTH: Narrabri CSG Scheme Final Assessment
Whether a massive coal seam gas (CSG) project in the north-west of the state receives final NSW government approval will be known in August.
Santos' Narrabri Gas Project, the first stage of which involves drilling 850 gas wells south west of Narrabri through the Pilliga Forest and farmland, has been referred for a final assessment to the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC). The IPC panel will be conducting a public hearing from July 20 - 24 as well as receiving written submissions.
More than 23,000 submissions were received by the Department of Planning when the EIS for this controversial project went on public exhibition in the first half of 2017. Given the continuing concern about the project, there are likely to be many submissions to the panel in the next few weeks.
Why is there concern about a project that both the federal and state governments are so keen to see approved? There are many issues of concern - two of which are discussed briefly below.
A major concern for many of the region's farmers is the impact the development will have on water- both in relation to local aquifers and also the re-charge zone of the Great Artesian Basin. The CSG industry uses significant volumes of water in its operation and also produces large amounts of saline water which will need to be disposed of safely. Opponents of the development are well aware of the major problems relating to CSG mining and water in the US and also in Queensland.
Another major concern is the impact of this massive development on the high conservation value Pilliga Forest, the largest temperate woodland in NSW. There will be significant clearing for roads, pipeline routes, well surrounds and ponds for produced water. This fragmentation of natural habitat will create problems for many local fauna species - including threatened species such as Black-striped Wallabies, Koalas and Eastern Pygmy-possums.
The IPC panel's determination will be of great interest to many people in the immediate area of Santos' development but also further afield - including here in the Northern Rivers.