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Shocking new analysis reveals development of zombie PELs would rip apart state’s best soil

New analysis has revealed a staggering one-third of the land covered by “zombie” petroleum licences being brought back from the dead by the NSW Berejiklian Government is home to the best farming soils in the state.

About 400,000 hectares of what’s known as biophysical strategic agricultural land (BSAL) is contained within the roughly 1.1 million ha of coal seam gas tenements across the Upper Hunter, Liverpool Plains, and Namoi Valley, that the NSW Government plans to reinstate.

The analysis also shows that if the scale of coal seam gas development and impacts approved for the Narrabri gas project were replicated across this larger area, more than 10,000 additional coal seam gas wells could be drilled, removing as much as 449 billion litres of groundwater. 

Such a gargantuan expansion of the industry could be expected to create an additional 10 million tonnes of solid salt waste, and emit roughly 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse pollution over 25 years - equivalent to three times Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. 

Mullaley Farmer Margaret Fleck, whose property is within the soon to be resurrected zombie petroleum licences area, said only 2.8 million hectares of BSAL had been identified in NSW - about 3.5% of the state’s total landmass - meaning the newly reinstated CSG tenements would threaten 15 percent of NSW’s very best farming soils and water resources capable of sustaining high levels of productivity.

“No community should be forced to confront the devastating possibility of living next to a polluting gasfield, but for the Berejiklian Government to sacrifice land that is home to the very best farming soils in the state really does rub salt into the wounds of locals,” she said.

“The soils in this part of the world are incredibly special and should be protected. Instead the government is putting them under threat.

“The impact of this growth is the pollution of the landscape, with more and more communities surrounded by gasfields they neither want nor need. Every new well risks pollution of precious groundwater, requires dewatering of aquifers, and the imposition of well pads, access roads, pipelines and compressor stations on the land.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said locals feared what would happen if the coal seam gas industry was able to gain a foothold in the region.

“While this analysis may seem shocking, if the Queensland experience is anything to go by, our estimates are conservative,” she said.

“Across the border, there are already roughly 10,000 producing CSG wells pockmarking fertile agricultural plains between Dalby and Roma, and that stretch north to the edge of the internationally renowned Carnarvon Gorge National Park. The Queensland Government’s own Gasfields Commission expects the number of wells in this area to more than double by 2050.

“This is the insidious nature of unconventional gas development. Once it grabs a foothold in a region, it spreads like an unstoppable plague.

“Rolling out the red carpet to polluting gasfields fatally undermines positive initiatives to curb greenhouse emissions, like the government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap and there are clear and unambiguous warnings that continuing to create greenhouse pollution puts all of us in peril from climate change. 

“The Berejiklian Government’s plan to sacrifice this land to the gas industry flies in the face of its commitments to assist farmers and to reduce greenhouse emissions.”

The full analysis is available here

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