Santos ignored climate change fire risks: New analysis

Published: July 22, 2020

New risk advice has found Santos’ Narrabri gasfield Environmental Impact Statement has overlooked the likely intensification and prevalence of catastrophic bushfires and other weather extremes as a result of a warming climate.

In particular, the Climate Risk advice indicates that the 1 in 70 chance Santos’ assessment estimates of the gasfield causing a bushfire during its life is increased to a 1 in 28 chance, given the effects of climate change on fire risk, creating “a reasonably high probability of the project starting a bushfire during its lifetime.” 

The advice points to an example from California, where US based Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) pleaded guilty for causing the deaths of 84 people during an ignition caused during 2018 fires in California.

Previously, members of the NSW Rural Fire Service have expressed serious concerns about Santos’ exemption from fire bans on catastrophic risk days, with the company able to flare methane or other gases whenever it chooses to, should the gasfield be approved.

Deputy captain of the Wynella rural fire service, which operates adjacent to the Pilliga, Dave Watt, said it was madness for a proposal like the Santos gasfield to be considered in light of the catastrophic fires that impacted NSW earlier this year and late last year.

Mr Watt will be making a presentation to the Independent Planning Commission's public hearing into the Santos Narrabri gasfield today (Wednesday July 22).

“Under extreme conditions it is too dangerous to go into the Pilliga to fight a fire during the day and that’s as it stands without the increased risk created by the gas project,” Mr Watt said.

“The Pilliga Forest is like a matchstick on catastrophic fire days already - it will only become more susceptible to inevitable fires as climate change intensifies.

“If the Santos gasfield goes ahead, it will not only be contributing to a warming climate, but will be located in a region that is set to greatly suffer due to more sweltering days, and lower rainfall. These factors combined with open flame-flaring in a potentially bone dry forest is sheer stupidity.

“People’s lives, including those of Santos staff, will be placed at unacceptable risk if this gasfield is approved.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods urged the Independent Planning Commission to heed the findings of the climate risk advice and reject the Santos gasfield.

“There are just so many reasons why this gasfield would place the communities and environment of the north west at unacceptable risk,” she said.

“The Santos gasfield will contribute to dangerous climate change, it will threaten the underground water farmers rely on, it will damage the Pilliga, and may cause a catastrophic bushfire. 

“We urge the Commission to stop this reckless mess proceeding.”

 

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Content on this site is authorised by Georgina Woods for Lock the Gate Alliance, Lismore NSW.