Farmers, Gamilaraay Traditional Owners and environmentalists are vowing to fight tooth and claw to protect their home as Santos lodges an Environmental Impact Statement for its controversial Narrabri coal seam gas project in the Pilliga forest.
The release of the EIS will trigger a showdown with the farming region which has resisted for five years the last coal seam gas proposal remaining in the state after AGL pulled out Gloucester and the NSW Government terminated Metgasco’s leases at Bentley.
Sally Hunter a farmer and mother from Narrabri said, “This community is well-informed about the damaging impacts of unconventional gas and will confront this threat with unity and energy. It is an existential threat to our farms and livelihoods and that is how we will respond to it.”
The long awaited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Santos’ controversial Narrabri Gas Project has been lodged with the NSW Department of Planning, which will now review it for release to the public in the weeks to come. The project is the only new CSG proposal in the state but the company’s intention to pursue the project is unclear given its value was written down to zero last year and Santos announced recently that it has been spun off to a subsidiary company for poor performing assets.
Santos proposes a 850 well coal seam gas field in eastern Australia’s largest inland forest. Each well would drill through a recharge aquifer for the Great Artesian Basin, risking depressurisation of the continent’s largest groundwater source. CSG exploration in the Pilliga has previously caused over 20 spills and leaks of toxic wastewater including the contamination of an aquifer with uranium and other heavy metals.
Sally Hunter continued, “It is only a matter of time until Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project contaminates our precious groundwater again. We cannot accept any risk to the groundwater on which we utterly rely. A CSG field in the Pilliga would be the beginning of the end of the health and productivity of our food producing region.”
Deb Briggs, a Gomeroi Traditional Custodian from Narrabri said, "Santos has not listened to the opposition of us Gomeroi. The Pilliga forest is sacred to our people. A coal seam gasfield spreading out across this Country would be devastating to our cultural heritage."
Megan Kuhn, a farmer from Bundella says, “For years the communities of the North West NSW region have shown we are staunchly opposed to CSG development and the risks it brings to our farms, our livelihoods, and our families’ health. The Government needs to listen to the community and reject this project.”
“The Government should not be assessing a major new CSG project before the recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer are properly implemented. A recharge aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin is no place for an invasive gasfield.”
David Paul a Coonabarabran based ecologist said, “The Pilliga is an irreplaceable haven for threatened and endangered wildlife west of the Great Dividing Range. The Federal Government’s own ecological assessment predicted significant impacts on two endangered ecological communities and ten endangered species, including the tiny Pilliga Mouse which is found nowhere else on earth.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator Georgina Woods said, "Santos is setting the scene for another showdown over coal seam gas in regional New South Wales in the lead up to the 2019 state election for a project it has publicly stated is worth nothing.
"This project makes no sense economically, socially, politically or environmentally and it is our hope that it soon falls over under the weight of public opposition and economic absurdity."