Hundreds attend Springwood CSG protest

Two seats on the stage — reserved for local politicians Roza Sage and Stuart Ayres — may have remained vacant, but Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles received a rousing reception when he declared coal seam gas as the biggest threat to the future of “brand Blue Mountains”.

“It’s become a bit of a political football, but it should go beyond politics,” Clr Myles, a Liberal, told the rally at Springwood’s Civic Centre on Sunday; the last official event to be held at the soon-to-be demolished centre.

“I think it’s heartening that the State Government has taken the first steps but not the last to limit CSG and the Federal Environmental minister has made similar statements,” he said.

In 30 degree heat, with many of the 350 gathered Mountains residents using petitions as hand-made fans, speakers from Queensland, the Illawarra and the Mountains presented information about the effects of CSG on communities.

A letter read out at the forum from Debbie Orr —a mother of six from Tara on Queensland’s Western Downs — said she and her children had been suffering from a range of health problems including headaches, nosebleeds, itching eyes and rashes. She lives one km from the gas wells. Another QLD resident said his children had experienced chemical burns in their bath and one now had neurological problems.

A report released this month by Queensland Health says there’s no clear connection between the health issues and CSG.

Geological scientist Dr Brian Marshall said the biggest effect of CSG could be on the water catchment and aquifers. He said the recent exclusions by governments did not address these issues.

“I’d say be not alarmed, be scared bloody stiff,” he told the forum. 

And Doctors for the Environment NSW spokeswoman Dr Helen Redmond, who has given evidence at Federal and State Government inquiries into the health effects of unconventional gas extraction, said some of the chemicals used in the process included bleach and anti-freeze —both substances that “it’s not safe to drink”.

She said there had been documented cases of water contamination.

Veteran environmental campaigner Drew Hutton, president of the Lock the Gate campaign, flew down from QLD for the forum. Mr Hutton has spent the last three years campaigning against CSG and was recently arrested for violating the Petroleum and Gas Act during a protest at a Queensland Gas Company project near Tara. He grew up in that area and was now witnessing his friends getting sick and unable to sell their properties.

He compared the events in QLD to his favourite book, Lord of the Rings.

“In the book the dwarves mined too deep in Moria and their greed unleashed the Balrog ... like the greedy short-sighted governments (over CSG).”

“In this struggle ordinary people have to become heroes,” he added.

Coal seam gas has become an election issue. The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has demanded NSW impose stricter regulations on the industry and threatened to increase federal powers to intervene in state planning processes if it does not.

State MP Roza Sage defended her absence from the event and said she had a “long standing” previous engagement and was concerned about “a number of mistruths in relation to my own position and that of the NSW Government” at the meeting.

“The forum also made a mockery of the apology I had given weeks before the event. I have welcomed every opportunity in the past to meet with and listen to the concerns of representatives of the conservation society on a range of issues. As the member for Blue Mountains I have taken real action in taking a stance on coal seam gas exploration. Prior to the last election the former Labor government gave out numerous exploration licences. This government has been left to deal with the mess left over from Labor.”

Mrs Sage’s full page-long response will be published on our Facebook page and website.

Member for Penrith Stuart Ayres told the Gazette he had “formally apologised for not attending... I had a pre-determined engagement”.

The date of the anti-CSG forum was announced in the Blue Mountains Gazette in late January.

AGL, which has the rights to exploration in the Lower Blue Mountains, insists it has no plans to do so.

The Upper and Mid-Mountains are also under threat from coal seam gas exploration after the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has applied to explore for coal seam gas as part of an application to explore for CSG under 40 per cent of the state.

Aunty Carol Cooper in the Welcome to Country on Sunday said “all Aboriginal people hurt when someone does something to our land”.

ROZA SAGE response in full:

 Not surprisingly the rally over the weekend claimed a number of mistruths in relation to my own position and that of the NSW Government.

 As stated previously, I do not support any activity that affects the pristine natural beauty of the Blue Mountains.

 Prior to the last election the former Labor Government gave out numerous exploration licences. This Government has been left to deal with the mess left over from Labor. So I would ask the question, where were all the protesters when these licenses were being given out willy nilly? It is truly disappointing that the truth has been misrepresented and distorted by many of the Green groups causing confusion to the people of the Blue Mountains.

 The Forum information was not correct. This Government made no such commitment on CSG licenses. Since taking office under the NSW Government there have been no new exploration licences granted.

 The forum also made a mockery of the apology I had given weeks before the event.  I had a long standing appointment however I have welcomed every opportunity in the past to meet with and listen to the concerns of representatives of the Conservation Society on a range of issues.

 As the Member for Blue Mountains I have taken real action in taking a stance on Coal Seam Gas exploration.

 There have also been strong measures taken by the NSW Government including that the independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will be the lead regulator of environmental and health impacts of CSG activities in NSW with responsibility for compliance and enforcement; all exploration, assessment and production titles and activities will be required to hold an Environment Protection Licence; the Chief Scientist and Engineer will conduct an independent review of all CSG activities in NSW, including the potential impact on water catchments; a two kilometre exclusion zone will be imposed around residential zones to prevent new CSG exploration, assessment and production activities (both surface and underground); exclusion zones will apply to identified Critical Industry Clusters - viticulture and the equine industry; and an Office of CSG Regulation will be established within the Department of Trade and Investment to enforce other regulations.

 The commitments of the Liberal and National Government prior to the election and action taken since the 2011 election are as follows:

Done -

 Aquifer Interference Policy and Water Access Licence

Done -

 Implemented Codes of Practice for well integrity and hydraulic fracturing

3. Ban the use of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) in fraccing fluids; 

Done

Done

4. Require CSG proponents to report on the location of wells to be stimulated by fraccing, details of chemicals used, the toxicity of ingredients and mixtures, and demonstrate that fraccing activities won't result in environmental harm; including inter-aquifer damage and contamination. – 

Done – although hydraulic fracturing is rarely used in NSW (and I don’t believe the NSW Government has granted approval for fraccing since we came to office  )

Done – although hydraulic fracturing is rarely used in NSW (and I don’t believe the NSW Government has granted approval for fraccing since we came to office  )

5. Reform the project approvals system in NSW so that there is enhanced cooperation across all relevant departments and agencies. Planning approvals for CSG exploration and pilot testing must be timely, consistent across the State, appropriate to the level of impact and take into account the different requirements for project development when compared to conventional petroleum projects, while also maintaining the existing environmental standards; 

Done – all projects require multi-agency assessment; EPA now lead regulator

Done – all projects require multi-agency assessment; EPA now lead regulator

6. Review existing arrangements for land access for mining and petroleum industries to ensure they achieve our goal of facilitating good relations and timely access. This will include promoting the use of crown land, such as Travelling Stock Routes, for pipeline routes where viable and the establishment of energy and transport corridors; 

Land + Water Commissioner established to oversight land access arrangements, new standard template being developed with NSW Farmers + APPEA

Land + Water Commissioner established to oversight land access arrangements, new standard template being developed with NSW Farmers + APPEA

7. Review the Water Management Act 2000, the Water Act 1912, the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 and related legislation to ensure aquifers are protected; 

Aquifer Interference Policy

Aquifer Interference Policy

8. Review environmental regulations for the natural gas industry to ensure they are safe and environmentally appropriate for coal seam gas development; 

Review underway

Review underway

9. Examine options to protect prime agricultural land so that natural gas development exists in a balanced manner so that the commercial activities of both industries are not compromised; 

Done – implemented Strategic Regional Land Use Policy

Done – implemented Strategic Regional Land Use Policy

10. Ban the use of evaporation ponds for mining and petroleum production activities; and 

Done

Done

11. Support the continuation of the Namoi Catchment Water Study. 

Done – report was released mid-last year, additional scenario released at the beginning of March

Done – report was released mid-last year, additional scenario released at the beginning of March

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop