CSG exploration suspension put on ice
By Catherine Clifford, ABC Updated November 14, 2011, 3:07 pm
The New South Wales Government has been forced to pour cold water on the announcement by one of its ministers of a temporary halt to coal seam gas exploration.
Minister for Western New South Wales Kevin Humphries this morning flagged the need to suspend pilot well exploration while better regulations were developed.
But Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher says the suspension will only apply to the operations of mining company Santos at Spring Ridge, in the state's north-west.
It was not a distinction made by Mr Humphries, who was commenting ahead of a forum sponsored by the Murray Darling Association in Narrabri today to discuss the co-existence of mining and agriculture.
"Those people that have got an exploratory licence, and you've had exploratory activity undertaken and it's progressed to pilot activity, then we're looking to work with industry... on them standing down until we've got a much tighter regime, particularly when it comes to water or aquifer interference," Mr Humphries said.
Mr Humphries said 44 petroleum exploration licences were issued under the previous Labor government and said every one of them was being reviewed to determine their futures.
"It's obvious that there will be places where this industry, and I'm talking about coal seam gas in this case, will be able to go and there will be places where the industry won't be able to go," he said.
"Now does that mean that some of those exploratory licences won't convert into extraction? I have no doubt that will be the case."
But Mr Hartcher has previously defended the need for CSG projects in the state, provided the concerns of farmers are also considered.
Labor announced a change of policy last week, with Opposition Leader John Robertson criticised by Mr Hartcher and others for advocating a freeze on all CSG exploration.
The Greens have also pushed for a moratorium on CSG exploration and mining, and currently have a bill before the Upper House.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham says the backdown sounds like a political fix.
"If this is just about Spring Ridge all this will do is enrage all those communities across New South Wales who are in exactly the same position," Mr Buckingham said.
"The farmers in the northern rivers, the Manning, the people fighting to project the drinking water catchments of Sydney.
"All of those communities will be enraged if this is just about ending the blockade at Spring Ridge."
The Sydney Morning Herald's
Win for gas blockade as Santos pulls back
Ben Cubby, Sean NichollsNovember 15, 2011 (last three paragraphs)
......................"The Resources and Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, said the government ''has not announced any change of policy related to coal seam gas licences. The legal rights of all exploration licence holders across NSW remain unchanged.''
The Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said the Nationals feared a public backlash. ''Nervous Nationals are now starting to break ranks, while the pro-industry Liberal minister attempts to rein them in,'' he said.
The Herald has learnt that Stuart George, the son of the prominent Nationals MP for Lismore and Deputy Speaker, Thomas George, has been recruited by the coal seam gas explorer Metgasco to negotiate access to private land for the company.
Mr George, a Richmond Valley councillor, was appointed land administration officer. In August the former deputy director of the NSW Liberals, Richard Shields, was appointed Metgasco's manager of external relations."