North West NSW community members are calling on oil and gas giant Santos to leave the North West altogether in the wake of the announcement this morning that Santos are trimming the area of current coal seam gas exploration to sites in the Pilliga Forest only.
“Santos have been forced to retreat because of the most extraordinary community opposition across the region - as residents across 700,000ha have declared their communities gasfield free,” said Liverpool Plains farmer Megan Kuhn, a Bundella representative of the North West Alliance.
“30 groups across the North West have all been working hard to ensure this region is protected from coal seam gas activities. This announcement is a testament to our work, and we are not going to give up until Santos leaves the North West, including the valuable Pilliga area.
“It is clear Santos is just looking to get started in the Pilliga State Forest, where they think there are no landholders to oppose them, and they then intend to spread out from there," she said, "but our communities will not be fooled by this ruse".
Penny Blatchford, Gurley farmer and Lock the Gate North West Co ordinator said, “In Qld, Santos had 2650 wells approved in 2010, and now they are applying for another 6,100 wells. We know that is what the coal seam gas industry requires - thousands of wells across large areas to extract the gas supplies they want for overseas markets.
"We are not going to allow Santos to turn our productive farmlands of the North West into their gas field," she said.
David Quince farmer and grazier of Tambar Springs said, “Farmers continue to be very concerned by Santos’ CSG activity in the North West. We know the Pilliga gasfield is their Trojan horse. The whole of the North West is at risk if they get the Pilliga project running and their planned gas pipeline in.
“If Santos get their intended pipeline in, then the gas wells will follow, right across our black soil farming country," he said.
Local ecologist Phillip Spark said, “This latest Santos announcement is nothing more than window dressing for them to get a firm foothold into the North West.
“The Pilliga feeds the Murray-Darling catchment and is a Great Artesian Basin recharge area. It's certainly no place for a gasfield.
"This Santos project is the thin edge of the wedge to cut up the Pilliga Forest into a draught board of gas wells, pipelines and roads. Such fragmentation will result in the loss of threatened species habitat and lead to invasion of feral animals and weeds. 18 wells will soon become a push for the original proposal of 1,000 wells, which will effectively destroy the self-sustaining integrity of the forest.
"There are enough energy resources now to supply NSW, including conventional gas supplies elsewhere and renewable energy, we don't need damaging coal seam gas," he said.