Documents obtained under freedom of information laws reveal extraordinary opposition to coal seam gas in rural NSW which is impeding the industry, and should send a warning signal to investors everywhere, according to Lock The Gate Alliance.
The documents include draft instruments of renewal for controversial coal seam gas exploration licences, and correspondence between gas companies and governments on those renewals.
The documents show that the NSW Government plans to renew most licences across 100% of the original area, waiving a mandatory requirement that licences are reduced by 25% on renewal.
The departmental unit considering renewals, Petroleum Geoscience, is on the record in the documents admitting the impediments to the industry are substantial. For example, it states that:
PEL462: "Work Program proposed is quite minimal and much reduced compared to previous years. However, due to protracted negotiations in landholder’s consent for access and very strong anti-sentiments from the community the reduced exploration is understandable."
PEL13: "The proposed work program for the first 2 years is light but in the recent past Metgasco had experienced severe delays due to opposition, blockade and access problems which renders a bigger work program rather meaningless if they cannot fulfil them".
Carmel Flint, campaign co-ordinator with Lock The Gate Alliance said that "Any investor looking at these documents would have to get cold feet. They show company after company stating that they are beset at every turn by community opposition and protests and it is impacting on their ability to meet their work program.
"The documents show Santos had over 15,000 contacts with stakeholders during 2011 but only signed one access agreement. Santos should take the hint - they are clearly not wanted on the Liverpool Plains and in north-west NSW.
"The NSW Government is showing great disregard for the community by giving gas companies access to 100% of their original licence areas despite the extraordinary groundswell of opposition.
"We are calling on the NSW Government to put licence renewals on hold until the Chief Scientist reports back from her inquiry into coal seam gas in July, and are asking for public exhibition of licence renewals," she said.