Farmers and Gomeroi Traditional Owners fighting the Santos Narrabri coal seam gasfield will ramp up the battle to protect their lands and precious water resources despite today’s disastrous IPC decision.
They have taken aim at the Berejiklian and Morrison Governments who they say have failed to listen to the community and protect groundwater from coal seam gas.
Gomeroi woman Polly Cutmore said, “Our people don’t want this gasfield and we are here to tell the government, Santos and their investors that will keep on fighting it. The Pilliga is Gomeroi land and Santos is not welcome there. We will never stop fighting to protect the Pilliga and protect Gomeroi country from coal seam gas.”
Coonamble stock and station agent David Chadwick said, “The Commission has made the wrong decision and they have made it based on bad laws and bad politics that promote coal seam gas. This decision puts the groundwater resources we rely on in the firing line of this destructive coal seam gas industry.
“The Morrison Federal Government and Berejiklian State Government were both so hell-bent on this polluting gasfield going ahead. Clearly that kind of pressure has drowned out the community’s clear rejection of the industry and the warnings of scientists about the threat it poses to our groundwater.
“The National Party in particular has utterly betrayed its traditional supporter base. The appalling display of contempt by the Nationals for the communities the party claims to represent is untenable.
“The Commission has made a terrible mistake and has condemned our region to having to keep fighting this destructive industry. Which we will.
“Coal seam gas is mother nature’s melanoma, and to pursue this sunset industry over agriculture and food production is just unbelievable.
“It is up to every Australian to stop this contempt for communities held by governments and gas companies. Our livelihoods depend on it.”
Lock the Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “Responsibility for this disaster lies squarely with the government. Planning Minister Rob Stokes gave the Commission a few short months to consider a huge range of complex issues and the views of over 11,000 people that made submissions.
“Information about leaks and spills occurring right now in the Queensland coal seam gasfields were ignored by the Commission and requests for independent expert advice about groundwater and greenhouse emissions were refused because of the impossible timeline imposed on the Commission by Minister Stokes.
“Experts warned the commission that this gasfield threatens underground water supplies, farmland, and the stressed koalas of the Pilliga, that it will create dangerous amounts of greenhouse pollution and fuel climate change, that Santos’ modelling and assessment were flawed and superficial.
Mullaley farmer Robyn King said she and Narrabri locals opposed to the project would not give up.
“This is the fight of our lives and we can’t afford to give it up. We owe it to the generations that come after us to stop Santos from wrecking this region,” she said.
“We will not sit back and passively accept this politically-influenced decision.”
Quick facts and figures:
Originally proposed by Santos in 2011, the Narrabri Gas Project was formally supported by the NSW Department of Planning in May 2020, despite receiving 22,484 (98%) submissions opposing the project, the largest number of objections ever received by a NSW development.
- The project involves Santos drilling 850 coal seam gas wells on 1,000 hectares of a 95,000 hectare site that spans across the Pilliga forest - a sacred place for Gomeroi/Gamilaraay people - and nearby grazing land.
- If built, it is estimated the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the project could be 127.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The CSG wells would be drilled through a recharge aquifer for the Great Artesian Basin, known as the Pilliga Sandstone.
The risk of drawdown and inter-aquifer leakage in the Namoi alluvium is considerable, and likely to be greater than what has currently been modelled by Santos.
- Santos’ project would be a trojan horse for other unconventional gas projects due to the existence of ‘zombie licences’ covering a huge area of north west NSW from Dubbo to the QLD border. Despite National Party members voting to have these licences permanently cancelled, the NSW Government has failed to act, meaning the licences could be re-activated.
In the Pilliga, Santos has already been fined for contaminating an aquifer with uranium and other heavy metals and for a spill of 10,000L of wastewater that caused a forest ‘dead-zone’ which is still un-remediated more than a decade later.
- Wastewater could produce up to 840,000 tonnes of salty waste with still no known disposal solution. Santos would be required to dispose of this waste within 150km of the project radius.
- Santos has downplayed the risks of bushfire in the Pilliga forest caused by gas flaring, with local RFS units saying they’ll refuse to send volunteers into the gas field to fight fires if the project goes ahead.