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An overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
by Elfian Schieren, 2012

1. Introduction
2. Energy and coal seam gas development
2.1 Economic viability underpinning coal seam gas development
2.2 Renewable, sustainable energy development
- Solar
- Wind
- Biogas
2.3 Coal seam gas development at a global scale
2.4 Coal seam gas development in Australia
3 Coal seam gas extraction process
- Drilling and dewatering
- Hydraulic Fracturing
- Produced Water
4 Risks to water resources from coal seam gas development
4.4 Ground water use
4.5 Water produced by coal seam gas
4.6 Contamination of Groundwater
5 Other Consequences of coal seam gas development
5.4 Impacts to agricultural production
5.5 Health impacts on humans and animals
5.6 Impacts on greenhouse gas emissions
5.7 Impacts on seismic activity
5.8 Economic impacts
5.9 Cumulative impacts
6 Potential for coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
6.1 Northern Rivers Region
6.2 Using trade-offs and opportunity costs in evaluating CSG development
6.3 Prospects for development in Northern Rivers region
6.4 Energy development in Northern Rivers region
6.5 Northern Rivers community actions and groups in response to CSG development
7 Discussion
8 Conclusion
9 References

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Coal Seam Gas

Northern Rivers Mining

20 June 2013 Hansard Transcript Page: 21859

Speakers Acting-Speaker (Mr John Barilaro); Parker Mr Jamie; Gulaptis Mr Christopher; Hoenig Mr Ron; George Mr Thomas; Hartcher Mr Chris
Business Petition, PET

Discussion on Petition Signed by 10,000 or More Persons

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! I welcome guests to the public gallery, who I know are passionate about coal seam gas exploration. I ask them, as guests in this place, to show respect to other visitors, staff and members of Parliament. Commentary, applause or jeering from the public gallery will not be tolerated during the debate. I ask visitors to follow the rules.

Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [4.35 p.m.]: I support the petition of northern rivers residents opposing coal seam gas, gas from tight sands and unconventional gas.

I acknowledge the campaign and supporters in the gallery, including those from Lock the Gate Alliance, which is the organiser of this petition, Carlos Beres Silva, Ian Gaard, Michelle Cullin, Isabel McIntosh, Jacinta Green and the many others who cannot be here but who helped to gather support for this very important petition.

The almost 12,000 petitioners have united in their request that the northern rivers region of New South Wales, encompassing all river catchments from the Clarence River to the Tweed, be declared a coal seam gas, tight sands and unconventional gas mining free zone.

They also request that the current licences and/or leases that allow any such activity be revoked, and that no such new licences or leases be granted. I welcome the Minister for Resources and Energy in the Chamber.

Coal seam gas has no social licence with local farmers, business people and residents across the political spectrum who are uniting to highlight the dangers of this industry to water, biodiversity and their lifestyle.

This matter is way beyond party labels, with people from all political parties and independent people supporting this inspiring petition.

It is fantastic to see such a strong consensus emerge in steadfast opposition to this damaging industry, which will leave a lasting legacy of pollution in our river catchments and in our air, above and below the ground.

First, it is important to address the misconceptions. In their attempts to force coal seam gas mining on communities in New South Wales, both the industry and government are pushing the idea that New South Wales is facing a gas shortage. That is simply not true.

For example, BHP Billiton President Mike Yeager has acknowledged that the company has plenty of gas for sale to supply these closed markets.

He is quoted as saying:

"…the Bass Strait field still has a large amount of gas that's undeveloped," Mr Yeager said.

"We have a lot of gas in eastern Australia that's available. It's more important to let the citizens of Victoria and New South Wales, and to some degree, you know, even Queensland … there's plenty of gas to supply those provinces for—you know, indefinitely."

There is no need for us to continue expanding this damaging industry—communities do not want it and the State does not need it.

The coal seam gas industry's propaganda clearly is not working, with growing community opposition, including a poll yesterday that showed that 83 per cent of respondents are happy to pay more for gas to keep coal seam gas out of the northern rivers region.

Recently, 86 per cent of the people polled said that landowners should have the right to refuse access to their land for coal seam gas exploration.

The truth is the gas is for export, which is why Metgasco also wants to build a pipeline north through the Lions Way and a section of World Heritage listed Border Ranges.

Another misconception is that this industry creates local jobs. It may bring a few jobs but the claim is untrue, especially when one considers the risk from this industry to other sectors in the community, particularly farming and tourism.

The people of northern rivers have said "no".

They also know that there are just a few shareholders of Metgasco, Dart or Red Sky Energy in the northern rivers. The vast majority of shareholders do not live in the local community—in fact, many do not even live in Australia.

The people of the northern rivers are to be subjected to an industrialised gas field from which almost all the profits will be sent elsewhere.

Evidence suggests that devastating and long-term damage created by this industry continues to grow, and residents are right to unite against it.

The Government has already openly acknowledged the dangers of coal seam gas and has imposed a two-kilometre exclusion zone around residential areas.

The Government has also protected horse studs and viticulture, but that protection is not available to farmers or to the people of the northern rivers.

Yet it is available to many others in our community.

We know that coal seam gas threatens biodiversity, water resources, and agricultural and sustainable industries.

We must safeguard our environment for the future instead of allowing powerful mining companies to exploit our resources and leave a negative legacy.

I will mention the 10,000 plus voices behind this petition.

They include organisations such as the Northern Rivers Guardians, Githerbal Tribal Group Original People, Ngarokowol Original People—Uncle Henry Boyd, Kyogle Group Against Gas, Girls Against Gas, Knitting Nannas Against Gas, Keerrong Gas Squad, Stop CSG Fracking Lismore, Casino and Drake, Coast and Yaragir Alliance, Clarence Against Gas, Tweed Lock the Gate, Region Wide Gasfield Free Communities, Iluka Gasfield Free Communities, Northern Rivers Regional Alliance, Nimbin Environment Centre, Casino Environment Centre, Byron Gasfield Free Communities, Dunoon Gasfield Free Communities and Whian Whian Gasfield Free Communities.

This petition contains the signatures of more than 10,000 persons.

This is the second petition presented on coal seam gas because communities are united against it. I hope the Government addresses the substance of this petition. What this Government does when it knows it is on the ropes—for example, the petroleum bill, which it cannot get through the upper House, and the wheat bill, which does not provide protections—is focus on the politics, not the issues.

I welcome debate around the science and the impacts on local communities. Whether one is a member of The Nationals, The Greens or the Labor Party, communities do not want coal seam gas in their area.

This petition highlights that fact. The petition should focus the Government on the issues, not the politics, so it protects the environment and our communities.

Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS (Clarence) [4.40 p.m.]: Coal seam gas is a big issue in the northern rivers region and in my electorate.

I am neither for nor against coal seam gas. My position, and that of The Nationals, is that we have to regulate the industry to ensure it does not impact on our land or water.

In New South Wales, 1.1 million people rely on gas as a source of energy.

We have a responsibility to ensure that those people can access gas at a fair price without compromising our environment.

That is the approach the Government has taken. I am somewhat confused about the approach of The Greens and the former Labor Government on this matter.

One minute they are for it and the next minute they are against it; one part of the party is for it and the other part of the party is against it.

They have more positions on this issue than there are in the Kama Sutra.

When Dr John Kaye came to the northern rivers area, leading the charge to stop TransGrid, he was reported in the local newspaper as saying:

The Metgasco find shows that TransGrid has failed to conduct a rigorous analysis of the need for the Lismore-Bonshaw high voltage powerline.

The potential for local gas generation should be factored into any planning for the Far North Coast's energy strategy.

The report goes on to say:

TransGrid's planning dismissed any role for gas, renewable energy or demand management as a solution to the region's future electricity needs.

Mr Jamie Parker: Who said that?

Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: Dr John Kaye said that. Later, when he was speaking in the House about electricity generation, he said:

Coal must be replaced by renewable and low-emission options, such as wind and solar energy as well as high-efficiency gas generation, and the distribution networks need to be redesigned to facilitate more efficient embedded generation options and incorporate smart load control systems.

He went on to say:

International best practice is in favour of high-efficiency gas-fired tri-generation systems that exploit the waste heat from the generation process to both heat and cool water.

That is just one extract from Hansard. Another Hansard extract shows that Dr John Kaye asked a question of the then Minister for Energy, the Hon. John Robertson.

He said:

My question is directed to the Minister for Energy. Has the Minister received a letter from the Premier requesting that he "develop a comprehensive energy policy with a strong emphasis on clean energy"? Can the Minister confirm that either or both of the new baseload power generator proposals at Mount Piper and Bayswater B are now to be restricted to be gas-fired only and not coal?
Guess what the Hon. John Robertson said?

I will cut to the chase, given the time constraints. He said:

What I will say is that gas is obviously a more competitive source of fuel for a prospective power station due to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—which is another reason why the Government supports it.
What is the position of those opposite?


ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! I direct the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove from the public gallery the gentleman who was interjecting. I remind visitors in the gallery of my earlier warning.

[The person interjecting was removed by the Serjeant-at-Arms.]

Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: Let us look at mining under the former State Labor Government.

To get a clearer understanding of Labor's position on coal seam gas, one has only to look at the New South Wales Trade and Investment Resources and Energy website.

More than 50 petroleum exploration licences were issued by the former State Labor Government.

Sixteen of those licences were issued when the Federal member for Page, Janelle Saffin, was a member of the New South Wales upper House.

Three of the licences are within her electorate of Page, and she promotes this petition. She helped to create the problem and now she has jumped on the anti-coal seam gas bandwagon as part of her Federal election campaign. That is what this is all about.

At the same time as she is opposing coal seam gas in New South Wales, her Federal environment Minister, Tony Burke, approved a coal seam gas mine at Gloucester.

This is at a time that Janelle Saffin is jumping up and down protesting. While she was opposing coal seam gas, the then Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, released the Federal Government's energy white paper saying,

"All jurisdictions must work to remove impediments to the timely development of domestic gas supply."

While the Federal member for Page was opposing coal seam gas mining, her State Labor colleagues—colleagues she sat with in this Parliament, former mining Ministers Obeid and MacDonald—were starring daily in Underbelly 4 at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

There is a good chance there will be a sequel, Underbelly 5. That is how Labor and The Greens work. [Time expired.]

Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) [4.45 p.m.]: On behalf of the Opposition I congratulate the residents of the northern rivers region on bringing this very important matter to the attention of the House. I know it is a matter of considerable effort to collect a petition of this size.

It is the voice of the people that forces governments and oppositions to make proper, realistic assessments of decisions that have been made.

The community's voice was heard by the O'Farrell Government when it made its decision recently in relation to coal seam gas and it was the voice of the people in March 2011 that caused the Labor Party to change its position.

The Leader of the Opposition made it very clear when he said:
… we got coal seam gas wrong and it is time to set things right.

The Leader of the Opposition went on to say:

As leader, I am drawing a line in the sand and I do so again today. That is why I have personally directed Labor to change its position on coal seam gas exploration.

Labor's new policy can be expressed very simply—it's farmers and local communities first, coal seam gas second.

It's food and water first, coal seam gas second. Labor is listening and Labor is changing …

That is the position the Labor Party has put on the record through its leader, and I support it. As a common lawyer I say in relation to mining and mining licences that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that allows a licence to private organisations to walk onto private property.

Police are not allowed to do so. Officers of the State cannot do so without warrant and, only about 20 years ago the High Court, in Plenty v Dillon, reasserted that age-old policy that a man's house is his castle.

I know the argument that the minerals are owned by the people of New South Wales. However, we need to resolve that conflict.

One of the reasons the public has lost faith in relation not only to coal seam gas mining but also to so many issues in New South Wales is that it has lost faith in the planning system and the integrity of the planning system.

The white paper is no solution, part 3A is no solution, and the Labor Party failed what was once a very good Act in 1979.

Consequently, I say to members of the House that things are changing because of the work of the residents of the northern rivers region.

Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore—The Deputy-Speaker) [4.48 p.m.]: This is a very emotional subject. I recognise some of the people in the gallery who are from my electorate. I thank them for travelling all the way to Sydney.

Since coming to government we have had the job of trying to bring this industry under control. For 16 years those on the other side of the House took the money for the licences and ran. They have now changed their story. The O'Farrell Government has been left with the job of cleaning up.

For the information of those in the gallery who may not know, I am the member for Lismore. A lot of these contentious issues affect my electorate and that of the member for Clarence.

I have never had one farmer or landowner who has exploratory wells on their property come through my door and say, "Get them off my property."

I stand to be corrected, and perhaps the Minister can confirm this, but I doubt whether one person in New South Wales who has exploratory wells on their property wants them removed.

I have always maintained that we need to protect agricultural land, the environment and the community. It is all very well for the member for Bankstown to criticise but she has never come to the North Coast to take a look.

The member for Balmain tabled this petition but he omitted one group that has consistently called my office: the Knitting Nannas Against Gas.

The Government is fully aware of the coal seam gas issues we have in this State and its proposed policies have not been finalised. We are continuing to work on the issues.

We have listened to the communities that have raised their concerns with the individual members around the State. These policies are being introduced to try to control the industry so that it can work in conjunction with the community and landowners. Indeed, the Government will continue to work on this issue, unlike those on the other side.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal—Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Central Coast) [4.51 p.m.]: I seek leave to make a contribution to debate.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! The Minister is seeking leave. Is leave granted? Leave is granted.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: If one member objects leave is not granted. Let the record show that the member for Sydney objected.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! The people seated in the public gallery have travelled a long way to hear this debate today. I will ask the question once more: Is leave granted? Leave is granted.

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal—Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Central Coast) [4.52 p.m.], by leave: I have been the Minister for Resources and Energy for 2½ years.

In that time I have received only one question on coal seam gas from the member for Balmain. I have received zero questions from the member for Heffron, who glories in the title of shadow Minister for Energy.

 When in government, the New South Wales Labor Party granted 44 exploration licences, covering 30 per cent of New South Wales. The Coalition Government has not granted a single exploration licence.

In the nine months that John Robertson was Minister for Energy eight licences were granted or renewed.

The Labor Party granted licences over metropolitan Sydney, urbanised areas, without a single environmental, water or land requirement. Which party gave its preferences to the New South Wales Labor Party to get elected in 2003? Which party gave its preferences to the New South Wales Labor Party to get elected in 1999?

The Greens were responsible for putting Labor into power. How many questions about coal seam gas were asked by The Greens in the period from 2003 to 2011? The answer is none.

Mr Jamie Parker: We did not have a member in the lower House, so how could we ask a question?

Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The Greens had members in the upper House. The hypocrisy of those who sit opposite on this matter is extraordinary.

For those opposite to now pretend to be looking after the farmers or other interested parties in New South Wales is a total joke.

The O'Farrell Government imposed a moratorium that lasted 18 months and it has also undertaken a major review.

In September 2012 we had a list of 27 requirements. Those requirements were regarded then as the most stringent in Australia.

On 19 February 2013 the Government expanded and augmented those requirements with even more stringent ones. The O'Farrell Government has not granted a single licence.

It has also imposed the strictest regime and as a result Planet Gas, Metgasgo and Dart Energy have withdrawn from New South Wales.

In this State 1.1 million customers and 31,000 businesses are dependent upon gas. New South Wales produces only 5 per cent of its gas, so it is facing big challenges. The Government will respond to those challenges but it will also protect our farmland, water and environment.

Discussion concluded..

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