Farmers are outraged after the NSW Perrottet Government quietly renewed massive coal seam gas exploration tenements owned by Santos in the world-renowned Liverpool Plains farming district this week.
The renewal of the three petroleum exploration licences (PELs) (PEL 1, PEL 12, and PEL 238) was quietly made on Tuesday, as Gomeroi People were being taken by Santos to the Native Title Tribunal over the Pilliga gasfield.
The renewal of one of the petroleum leases means Santos will now be able to explore for gas over a much larger swathe of the Pilliga than what is currently confined within its proposed project.
The renewal of the three licences also means that about half of the 1.2 million hectares of the Liverpool Plains foodbowl is now covered in renewed gas exploration licences.
Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said the renewal was a cruel blow to farmers on the plains, given they had only recently celebrated the demise of the Shenhua coal mine.
“People will be furious that they are now once again faced with a fight against an industry that threatens to drain the precious groundwater they rely on to produce food and fibre for Australians and export,” she said.
“Our concern has always been about the impact this industry will have on groundwater. Allowing Santos to expand over the Liverpool Plains will jeopardise the viability of farming businesses. We live in an environment where most forms of farming are dependent on groundwater. The renewal by the Perrottet Government of Santos’ tenements puts all that at risk.”
The renewal of the tenements follows the release of a new groundwater impact report in Queensland, which reveals the devastating impacts the coal seam gas industry is having and is expected to have on the Western Downs farming district. It showed the industry:
Is taking about 54 billion litres of water each year
Is expected to drain more than 700 water bores relied on for farming. Two hundred and thirty-three bores have already been impacted.
Is causing groundwater levels to drop by more than 400 metres in some areas.
Is expected to expand from 8,600 gas wells currently operating to about 22,000.
Is causing farmland to sink due to depressurisation of coal seams beneath the surface.
Santos has previously said publicly that it has no plans to drill for gas on the Liverpool Plains.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said those comments now looked hollow in light of the company’s renewed licences.
“Santos has proved it cannot be trusted and it clearly has coal seam gas expansion plans for the farmland of the Liverpool Plains and beyond. It was a fatal mistake for the New South Wales Government to give this company room to expand coal seam gas,” she said.