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Cautious Welcome for Further Baby Steps on Coal Seam Gas

The Lock the Gate Alliance has cautiously welcomed commitments by gas miners Santos Ltd and AGL to accept the right of landholders to prevent them accessing their land for gas development, but warns that resolving rural conflict over invasive gasfields and coal mining requires root and branch reform and legal force.

Lock the Gate National Coordinator, Phil Laird said, “The right of landholders to lock their gate to fossil fuel companies is something that is profoundly important to our members and supporters, so we welcome the news that locking your gate in some areas in NSW will no longer lead to protracted court battles.

“This commitment from AGL and Santos, however, is no comfort to our Queensland members or to communities in the Northern Rivers facing off against gas company Metgasco, and cannot be relied upon unless it is enshrined in law in NSW.

“Much of the conflict in North West NSW and the Northern Rivers region is about impacts of coal and gas that go far beyond the farm gate.  The farmers who have been arrested in the Pilliga know that the impacts of Santos’ coal seam gas drilling there could affect the groundwater that supports the whole region.

“Our message to the Government is this: extend rights and protections not just to landholders, but to the communities that rely on the health of the land and the water.  Otherwise a gas company can still undermine the safety and security of landholders by buying high value farming land for coal seam gas extraction, as AGL has done in the Hunter.

“We welcome this step, but have always been very clear: dealing with coal and gas requires clear and unambiguous no-go areas for water resources, farmland and important bushland. It requires root and branch legal reform, and while the NSW Government has been making some headway, the conflict on the land will continue while the countryside is offered up without limit to coal and gas mining" he said.

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