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Alarm as “sleight of hand” enables Pilliga CSG production with no environmental assessment and no royalties payable

Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on the NSW Government to reject a “sleight of hand” application by Santos to expand the use of coal seam gas to fuel Wilga Park power station without environmental assessment and without a CSG production licence.

Lock the Gate has made the call in its submission to Santos’ proposal. Public submissions on Santos’ proposal close Wednesday, 26th October.

Santos is already allowed to use some CSG taken during its Pilliga exploration activities to burn for power at Wilga Park. Recent law changes made by the NSW Government allow the company to expand this operation so it can send more and more CSG to the power station for burning without paying royalties and without any environmental assessment. The Department of Planning has issued a notification that Santos had applied to modify the approval for the Wilga Park Power Station to allow more CSG to be burned there, despite the company not holding a production licence for CSG.

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator, Georgina Woods, who prepared Lock the Gate’s submission against Santos’ proposal, said, "Santos is exploiting a loophole that allows the commercial exploitation of CSG whilst calling it exploration. This is CSG production by stealth and will allow Santos to get away without paying royalties or preparing any environmental assessment." 

“There is little to no information being provided about this. We don’t know how much gas they plan to burn, or if it would all otherwise be flared or released. We don’t know how much clearing they plan to do in the forest to pipe the gas to the power station. We don’t know whether Santos intend to keep on expanding their ‘exploration’ for CSG in this way and bypassing environmental laws and royalty requirements, all with the blessing of the NSW government.

“There is broad and growing opposition to CSG in the North West, and this industry has serious environmental risks. It is frankly shocking that the NSW Government has left this gaping loophole open.”

“This looks like a devious sleight of hand by Santos and the Government to bypass broad public opposition to coal seam gas in this region and across the state by allowing widespread CSG production to creep and spread through the Pilliga forest with little to no public scrutiny or environmental assessment.

“This application has exposed a gaping hole in the laws around CSG that needs to be closed right away. Planning Minister Rob Stokes must reject this application and make sure that the Pilliga cannot be industrialised by stealth. Let the public see Santos' CSG plans and judge them on their merits.”

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