February 28th 2020: Scathing parliamentary report proof Santos’ Narrabri CSG project must be scrapped

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling for an immediate halt to the assessment of the Narrabri CSG project after a NSW Parliamentary Committee described the industry as “uninsurable” and found the Berejiklian Government had failed to implement important Chief Scientist recommendations for the dangerous industry. 

The Committee report, tabled today, followed two dismal public hearings into whether the five-year-old recommendations had been implemented, where government representatives were unable to answer key questions or demonstrate how the Chief Scientist’s advice was being followed.

Today’s report concludes that only two of the 16 recommendations have been fully implemented and eight have not been implemented at all (see page 49 of the report).

Key points from the report:

  • The “enhanced insurance coverage” envisaged by the NSW Chief Scientist in Recommendation 9 of the Final Report of the Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW is not available, and landholders are left to bear “uninsurable” risks posed by coal seam gas activities

  • Recommendations that the NSW Government reconsider the establishment of a Standing Expert Advisory Body and review all new findings in relation to health impacts and include them in any new assessment of coal seam gas activities.

  • A recommendation that the NSW Government apply its new “Strategic release framework” to 12 expired Petroleum Exploration Licence areas in north-west NSW which have never been evaluated against that framework of social, environmental and other constraints. 

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said regional communities like those near the planned Santos Narrabri CSG project could not be expected to have any confidence in the government or industry given the inquiry’s damning findings. 

“The failure of the Berejiklian Government to implement the Chief Scientist’s recommendations is deeply troubling at a time when Santos is seeking approval to drill 850 gas wells right through a recharge zone of the Great Artesian Basin,” she said.

“We’re calling for an immediate halt to any further assessment of the Narrabri CSG project in light of this scathing report, which found landholders are left to bear the risks of CSG because the industry is uninsurable.

“The NSW Government must not approve the Narrabri project when we now know that the measures that the Chief Scientist said were needed to control CSG are not in place.”

Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said, “Residents of the Narrabri region cannot possibly be expected to accept this dangerous polluting industry when the government has not even bothered to put minimal protections and oversight in place and a parliamentary committee has described it as ‘uninsurable’.

“The NSW Government is leaving farming communities in north-west NSW exposed to unforeseen and irreversible loss or contamination of water resources and other environmental and health impacts from the CSG industry.

“The Strategic Release Framework was supposed to ensure gas exploration activities don’t occur in environmentally sensitive areas, but the Committee found this process has never been applied to 12 expired CSG licences covering 5 million hectares of our region.

“Assessment of the Narrabri CSG project must be halted in light of this report and all parties should work together to pass a current bill which has been proposed to put a moratorium on CSG across NSW.”