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Coal Seam Gas

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2012 Coal Seam Gas


7 December 2012 - A GROUP of Gloucester residents concerned about coal-seam gas projects in the basin were given unique access to two high-ranking public servants from the Commonwealth’s Environment Department on Thursday.

The meeting, organised by Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott, was attended by the head of Water Science Operations, Dr Paul Salmond, and the head of the Commonwealth’s Environmental Assessment and Compliance Division, Kate Gowland.

Also attending were representatives of the Barrington, Gloucester, Stroud Preservation Alliance, Gloucester Groundswell, Gloucester Residents in Partnership, and Gloucester Shire Council’s Director of Planning Environment.

“This was a really good opportunity to bring high-ranking advisers and assessment officers from Canberra to Gloucester so they could see for themselves what’s at risk, and to answer questions about the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining Projects,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“We had two-and-a-half hours of full and frank discussion on the triggers for Commonwealth involvement, the role of the committee, the science, and the very real concerns of many Gloucester residents about the potential cumulative impact of CSG projects on the water catchment and on food production.

“I want to thank everyone for their time, and for their questions,” said Mr Oakeshott, who along with Independent MP Tony Windsor, was responsible for the legislation that has put science at the heart of the assessment process.



1 November 2012 - INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott says NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher should apologise for calling community delegates at a coal-seam gas conference in Gloucester socialists.

“Community get-togethers such as last weekend’s Groundswell Conference are happening because farmers, land owners and regional communities fear they no longer have a voice on CSG and coal mining developments,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“They feel their legitimate concerns about the unknown effects of CSG drilling on water and food production are being ignored in the state’s rush for mining royalties.

“I was among the 130 people who attended the Gloucester conference.

“I attended because my community has real concerns about the potential unintended consequences of CSG drilling and coal mining on the Gloucester basin and the headwaters of the Manning.

“The Mayor of Gloucester was present, as was the president of the NSW Farmers Association and lawyers from the Environmental Defender’s Office of NSW – hardly the sort of people you could label as socialists.”

Mr Oakeshott said the NSW Government was developing a track record of labelling anyone who disagreed with its CSG and coal mining policies as socialists or greenies.

“We’ve seen extraordinary attacks on farmers, environmentalists, families and community action groups for no other reason than they oppose inappropriate CSG and coal mining developments.

“Instead of listening to the broad concerns of 10,000 people at a CSG rally outside the NSW Parliament in May, NSW Government Ministers called the protesters socialists.

“This was a protest attended by farmers, and addressed by the president of the CWA. It was the first time the CWA had marched on Sydney in its 90-year history.

“Our own Manning Alliance, which led the Taree campaign against CSG and Transgrid’s power line plans, was also on the receiving end of a Nationals’ attack in September.

“And now, 130 delegates at Gloucester last weekend are apparently part of some socialist agenda to, in the Minister’s words, ‘destroy the economy’.
“Instead of accusing locals of being part of a socialist conspiracy, the NSW Government should be listening to the community.

“There is a significant level of broad community concern right across NSW about the unknown risks attached to CSG drilling.

“If this is the Minister’s idea of community engagement just two years after returning to government, I can only imagine what we are likely to be accused of by a second or third-term government.

“The Minister should be acknowledging our community’s concerns on water and food production, and adopting the precautionary principal where CSG and coal mining activity is proposed on agricultural land or in water catchments.”
Mr Oakeshott said he also had concerns for the future of the Environmental Defender’s Office of NSW.

“This is an organisation that has represented the public interest against big developers and mining companies for three decades,” he said.
“Now, it is facing a funding crisis because the NSW Government has cut its budget and is considering further cuts.

“The EDO has an important community role on the Mid-North Coast. It has represented the interests of mums and dads, pensioners and entire communities in court cases against developments such as the diesel power plant at Herons Creek and CSG drilling near Gloucester.

“Sometimes we’ve won, sometimes we’ve lost, but we’ve always had the option of going to the EDO and asking its lawyers to fight our cause in court.

“I ask the NSW Government to stop the name-calling, to address the aquifer and agriculture concerns of communities such as Gloucester and Taree and to properly fund the office that represents the public’s interest, not vested interests, in environmental law cases.”



28 August 2012 - INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott has urged State MPs on the Mid-North Coast to consider the residual impact of NSW’s Part 3A planning laws following yesterday’s court ruling on a 330-well coal seam gas project in the Gloucester valley.

“The state MPs were elected on a platform of removing the contentious Part 3A planning law, which gave the Planning Minister sole discretion over any site deemed ‘state significant’,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“However, yesterday’s Land and Environment Court ruling has revealed not a lot has changed since the NSW elections for communities such as Gloucester.
“The court rejected Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance’s challenge to AGL’s exploration licence, which was approved under Part 3A in the dying days of the former NSW Labor Government.

“Even though the court recognised coal seam gas exploration was contentious, Justice Rachel Pepper said the merits, or otherwise, of the use of coal seam gas were irrelevant to the issue before the court. Her task was to judge only the lawfulness of the approval.

“The ruling proves only that the NSW law has been followed; not that it was a good law.

“It is this issue of the strength of the state law that I invite state MPs to reflect on and to fix,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“While I helped bring in a science-based review of the potential impacts of these sorts of projects under Commonwealth laws, the state’s planning laws and regulations are issues that only our local state MPs can influence.”

Mr Oakeshott said the final steps to establish the scientific panel were underway with the new Commonwealth laws he and Tony Windsor negotiated about to pass through the Senate. An interim committee was established in January to advise on applications lodged before the final committee can be appointed.

“These laws need to get through the Senate, and then the states need to listen to the science experts,” he said.

“I am watching the decision-making process through the scientific panel very closely, to make sure it is being taken seriously by the state planning authorities, but I will recommend further changes to the law if it is not,” Mr Oakeshott said.



30 May 2012 - INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott says his electorate has helped bring balance to the energy debate with the passage last night of legislation that puts science, not vested interests, at the centre of coal-seam gas assessments.

An independent scientific committee on coal-seam gas (CSG) and coal mining was one of three agreements reached between Mr Oakeshott, New England MP Tony Windsor and the government during negotiations on the mining tax last year. Last night, the legislation supporting the establishment of the committee passed the house with the support of the Government and the Opposition.

During debate on the legislation, Mr Oakeshott told the parliament his community had recognised the flaws in the state-based approvals process two years ago but could now be satisfied their campaign had helped deliver an important victory, not only to the Mid-North Coast but to communities right across the country.

“I thank the many organisations in my area who have been involved —the likes of the Manning Alliance, the Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance, the Manning Clean Water Action Group, the Gloucester Residents in Partnership and the Camden Haven Anti-fracking Group,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“I also thank the many individuals not aligned with any particular organisation who have had signs on their fences, who have written to me, who have attended public meetings to voice their concerns – ordinary people who do not normally protest or engage in politics who have done an extraordinary job in making sure the message on protecting productive lands and water was heard loud and clear across the country.

“I support this bill because it makes a substantial contribution to better outcomes in natural resource management—productive land protection and establishing science at the centre of planning processes for land use,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“This bill makes sure planning decisions on CSG and coal mines are not influenced by vested interests, not based on politics, and not made by state governments desperate for mining royalties.

“This bill is all about science - the best possible science, and I encourage the NSW Government, which is struggling to develop its own land use policy, to see the worth of this, to use it for their own benefit and to make it the heart of their public policy on this difficult but important issue,” Mr Oakeshott said.



04 May 2012 - AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project is on hold with the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke delaying a decision on the development for up to 10 months.

Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott said the Minister had extended the moratorium on the AGL approval process after the company sought changes to its project.

A decision on the future of stage one of the 300 coal-seam gas well project was expected in late March after the Minister extended the original assessment period by six months.

The project already has NSW Government approval but also requires federal approval because of its potential impact on water resources.

“Coal-seam gas mining is an issue that is moving rapidly within state and federal public policy development,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“The delay in the approval process is a sensible move while ever the future policy direction is being worked on.”

The decision to delay the AGL project was made on the same day Gloucester residents took part in a protest outside AGL headquarters in North Sydney and were among the 8000 farmers, environmentalists and concerned residents from throughout regional NSW who protested outside NSW Parliament House.

It was also the day the NSW Upper House called for an even broader and more extensive moratorium on coal-seam gas mining across the entire state.



20 January 2012 - INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott has called for a scientific study on the impact of coal-seam gas mining on the Gloucester Valley’s water resources.
Mr Oakeshott, who with New England MP Tony Windsor, secured tighter regulation of coal-seam gas mining during negotiations last November on the mining tax, has written to the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, requesting priority research status for Gloucester.
“An Interim Expert Scientific Committee on Coal-seam Gas and Coal Mining has been established, which will provide state and territory governments with the opportunity to seek advice on coal-seam gas and coal mining developments in the lead-up to a formal arrangement being agreed to by COAG in February,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“The interim committee is an early opportunity to have Gloucester considered a priority area for scientific research, particularly because of the community’s heightened concerns about the potential impact of mining activities on local water resources.
“The research, to be commissioned by the interim committee, is ‘no regrets’, independent, unbiased research that addresses key scientific questions about the impact of coal-seam gas and coal mining on water.
“If our request is successful, the subsequent research would enable the committee to provide scientific advice on the AGL project, and the independent findings, not influenced by stakeholders or interest groups, would be made public,” Mr Oakeshott said.

The interim committee members are:

• Chairman Craig Simmons, Professor of Hydrogeology at Flinders University and Director of National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training;

• Professor John Langford, a Fellow, Australian Academy of Technical Sciences and Engineering, and a Fellow, Institution of Engineers, Australia;

• Ms Jane Coram, a groundwater expert at Geoscience Australia and member of the Expert Panel on Coal Seam Gas

• Associate Professor David Laurence who has a PhD in Mining Engineering and is the inaugural Director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices;

• Professor Chris Moran, the Director of Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland; and

• Emeritus Professor Peter G Flood, a geologist with 44 years’ experience in basin studies and a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.


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