A bushfire in the Pilliga Forest has been brought under control. It burnt an area of 97 hectares between X Line Road and Blue Nobby Road close to gas infrastructure. Another smaller fire in the Pilliga West State Conservation Area is being controlled.
Meanwhile the NSW government considers setting up a special gas zone in northern NSW and may release more areas for exploration to increase supplies in the state and spur job creation, according to Peter Hannam in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Part of the Pilliga forest is closed to the public until 31 December for Santos to do workover operations – maintenance work. Santos could also be drilling the 2 wells they have approval for under their exploration licence.
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The IPC’s 134 conditions of approval are a huge hurdle for Santos. Some, including the disposal of 840,000 tonnes of salt waste, have to be solved before Phase 1 of the project can start.
Phase 1 – Drilling up to 25 wells for ongoing appraisal will enable the company to make a final investment decision
Phase 2 – Construction of production wells and related infrastructure can only commence when a pipeline is approved linking the project to the domestic gas network
Phase 3 – Gas production can only begin when a pipeline is commissioned
The two pipelines proposed to transport gas out of the North West – APA’s Western Slopes pipeline and the Hunter Gas Pipeline are strongly opposed by the landholders. Both pipeline routes have not been surveyed. Local opposition has made this very difficult in the past.
The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has given conditional approval of the Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga forest. This was a savage blow to the many community groups who had worked long and hard to stop Santos’ 850 gas well development.
A mass of evidence was provided to the IPC by 11,000 people through spoken and written submissions. Expert submissions came from many perspectives: Gomeroi Traditional Owners, farmers, scientists from many disciplines, economists and environmentalists.
They provided evidence of the serious risks to water resources as well as certain damage to the Pilliga, Gomeroi heritage, agricultural land, biodiversity and the health and wellbeing of surrounding communities.
Santos’ Response to Submissions to the Narrabri Gas Project was released on 23 April 2018 and is on the NSW Government Planning & Environment website. The project now moves into the government assessment phase of the approval process.
A brief appraisal of Santos Response to Submissions reveals –
The project has been delayed a year.
A final investment decision has not been made due to the timing of approval, further appraisal and exploration.
Over the life of the project an average of only 540 full time jobs will be created.
Santos needs to make a development application or apply for a modification to expand the project area.
Santos is not seeking approval for fracking.
Note: Modifications to a project do not require a separate EIS, a full assessment or community consultation. Fracking has occurred in NSW under a modification.
Insufficient monitoring and inadequate information were objected to strongly in the submissions. Many of the issues raised have still not been addressed as Santos proposes –
A rehabilitation plan will be prepared post approval.
Every 3 years a third party will do an environmental audit, monitoring gas wells and gathering lines.
Waste salt, filter cartridges and reverse osmosis membranes will be disposed of at an appropriately licenced facility in accordance with regulatory requirements.
Prior to a routine loadout to an off-site licenced management waste facility, the salt would be temporarily stored at Leewood, in a weatherproof appropriately bunded storage facility.
Note: In Queensland toxic salt piles up on gas companies’ or contractors land waiting for a waste facility to be approved and licenced.
Scientist wrote in their submissions that the information on the effects on surface and groundwater was insufficient to assess the project and more monitoring was needed. The water section is complex and expert advice is needed to see if Santos have adequately addressed this issue.
In other words this massive document does little to quash the fears of objectors but spins a good yarn. With the $13B takeover bid from US owned Harbour Energy being reviewed by the Foreign Investment Review Board, Santos needs to keep up appearances that this project is still viable.
The backyard of New South Wales is facing its biggest threat yet – invasive gasfields. Betrayal by governments has meant protectors are fighting to save the things they love. The Pilliga, Great Artesian Basin, Liverpool Plains – all are at risk. This is a David and Goliath battle to save our land, air and water from destruction. It’s also a fight for the soul and future of Australia. Meet the experts and people living in the sacrifice zone and uncover the truth behind the real gas crisis confronting ordinary Australians.
Spring into the Pilliga was held 10-12 November at Pilliga Pottery. Around 250 attended the event, participating in tours of the area, bushwalking, workshops and a campaign planning meeting. Continue reading →