NSW authorities quietly signed off on the reactivation of legacy coal seam gas wells in the Liverpool Plains during caretaker mode, despite sending an email to farmers on the same day, saying a decision would not be made until after the election.
Documents recently uploaded to a government website show approval was effective as of March 15 for Santos to reactivate the “Kahlua Pilot” wells, which are located 22 kilometres west from Gunnedah. Santos applied to reactivate the wells on January 12 this year.
Also on March 15, Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord member Margaret Fleck received an email* from the Resources Regulator executive director stating: “As we are now in caretaker mode with the election these types of applications will not be finalised until after the election.”
Approval for Santos to reactivate these wells was also uploaded to an obscure section of the government’s website on March 31. Ordinarily, these decisions are uploaded to “News”, however this decision was uploaded to the document library.
The reactivation of the wells means Santos will now be able to use them to “explore” for gas, essentially meaning the company will be able to operate them as it would any other coal seam gas project including gas extraction and flaring. Nine million litres of waste water is expected to be produced from the wells each year.
The wastewater will be stored in two five million litre storage tanks, with Santos to eventually ship the waste water to its Leewood facility, near Narrabri.
Ms Fleck said it was a clear example of the government trying to hide the decision from the public.
“The first reactivation of a coal seam gas well on the world renowned Liverpool Plains foodbowl will trigger public outrage, particularly from local communities, so it’s little surprise the government wanted to keep the decision as quiet as possible.
“But to be told on the same day approval was given that a decision wouldn’t be made until after the election is extremely poor form from the government and the bureaucracy.
“The Liverpool Plains is one of Australia’s most productive foodbowls. Coal seam gas drilling and extraction will drain the water we rely on to grow the food and fibre to feed Australia and the world. It shouldn’t be sacrificed to the ravages of Santos and coal seam gas. For the government to pull the wool over farmers’ eyes like this is totally unacceptable.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Nic Clyde said, "We're renewing our call for the new Minns Government to stop Santos from developing its disastrous gasfield in the Pilliga Forest, and from laying waste to the NSW's farming powerhouse in the Liverpool Plains. Gas was a fuel for last century - the future is sustainable, renewable energy.
“The Minns Government should also urgently amend planning policies to put climate change considerations at the heart of any decisions and stop the approval of new coal and gas expansions.”