Santos' dream run in the coal seam gas industry is about to hit a serious road block in its $924 million takeover of Eastern Star Gas.
Santos has largely flown under the radar in its large Queensland operation because it has been located in the far west where there are large properties mostly given over to grazing. They have also worked in this area for some time and have bought quite a few properties.
However, with the purchase of Eastern Star tenements in north and central New South Wales, Santos will find itself facing significant challenges.
Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, said the first problem they will have is opposition from landowners.
"Landowners in the region where the Eastern Star operations are occurring, have seen the destruction occurring to land from this industry in Queensland and are determined the same will not happen to them," Mr Hutton said.
"I spoke at a meeting in Gurley, right next door to the Eastern Star operations, and 85 farmers there have locked their gates on Planet Gas and the local Moree Plains Shire Council has placed a 60-day moratorium on all coal seam gas seismic and drilling activities. Santos is likely to get a similar response from farmers determined to protect some of the best agricultural land in the country.
"The area from Coonabarabran to north of Moree is also the southern recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin with a strong possibility that the massive water extractions that come with coal seam gas drilling will damage, perhaps for many years, the Basin itself."
Mr Hutton said the other flash point for Santos will be the Eastern Star operations in the Pilliga forest.
"The Pilliga operation will clear 2410 hectares of valuable bushland including in a conservation zone, in the largest temperate woodland in eastern Australia, home to threatened species such as the Pilliga Mouse and the Regent Honeyeater.
"Our campaign will not only lock the gate against this company moving in on some of the best agricultural land in the country, it will also lock it out of our beautiful bushland," Mr Hutton said.