CSG 'gateway' plan to protect prime land

Social, legal and health issues related to air and water toxic pollution in Australia.

CSG 'gateway' plan to protect prime land

Postby HVPA_research » Mon Dec 19, 2011 9:21 am

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The Australian
CSG 'gateway' plan to protect prime land
by: Imre Salusinszky, NSW political reporter From: The Australian December 19, 2011 12:00AM
THE future of coal-seam gas mining in NSW could be decided as early as today when state cabinet considers a strategic land-use policy that will seek to protect key farming areas from potential soil and water degradation.
Senior government sources said last night it was likely the policy would identify those parts of NSW regarded as prime agricultural land, and would establish a "gateway process" to follow before CSG reserves could be exploited.
This outcome would anger community groups in regions where CSG is considered a threat because of potential contamination of soil and groundwater.
The Australian has learned that the timetable for the land-use policy, originally expected to be released next year, has been advanced because of uncertainty among farmers, rural communities and the CSG industry.
Crunch meetings last week, some lasting as long as six hours, between NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, Energy Minister Chris Hartcher and key stakeholders advanced the issue to the point where state cabinet will consider making a decision at its final meeting for the year today.
It is understood Mr Hazzard and Mr Hartcher are strong supporters of the gateway approach, along with Treasurer Mike Baird.
Under such a policy, CSG proponents would face increasingly stringent environmental and social assessment criteria before being allowed access to land defined for crops, livestock, winegrowing or the equine industry.
But senior figures in the Nationals, as well as Liberal MPs in marginal rural and regional seats, would prefer areas "sterilised" from CSG under the policy.
The urgency in NSW has been increased by national developments, with Julia Gillard announcing last month that major CSG and coalmine projects would need to pass federal guidelines on their impact on underground aquifers after a Senate inquiry warned that the pace of CSG development had outstripped the science on its effects and the efforts to regulate the industry.
In Queensland, where CSG is a booming industry, exploration in urban areas was placed off-limits by Premier Anna Bligh in August.
Research commissioned by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, an industry lobby, said a CSG industry in NSW could between now and 2030 create 5362 jobs, save six million tonnes of carbon pollution, cut household power bills by 8.35 per cent and contribute $73bn to the state economy.
APPEA spokesman Rick Wilkinson said yesterday: "We'd like a scientifically based gateway process for development and production of CSG, and believe the exploration phase already has rigorous review processes. It's not science-based if you just sterilise an area, and then the technology changes dramatically."
Some of the most heated confrontations over CSG have been on the Liverpool Plains, in northern NSW, where mining giant Santos is planning a $16bn investment in the CSG industry over the next 20 years.
A senior state government source told The Australian last night: "Logically, any system is going to protect vignerons and the equine industry in places like the Liverpool Plains."
But Drew Hutton from anti-CSG group Lock the Gate said agricultural land should be off-limits for CSG, and any licences on such land should be recalled.
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