THE State Government has given Metgasco the go-ahead to commence commercial coal seam gas production at Casino, the first such licence to be issued by this government.
Metgasco has previously been granted approval to build a 30 megawatt power station at Casino that will supply electricity into the grid, but until Tuesday's announcement did not have the rights to extract gas for commercial purposes. An extension of Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) 13 and 16 and a production lease of about 1500 hectares (within PEL 16) to supply gas to the power station was granted.
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said the announcement was a "clear message that the NSW Government is 100% behind (the) industry."
The government's announcement was part of the launch of their much anticipated Strategic Land Use Policy (SLUP) which sets the framework for the coal seam gas industry. The SLUP includes the identification of strategic agricultural land that must go through a 'gateway process' to assess the impacts of CSG mining; a new Land and Water Commissioner to oversee land access agreements; an Aquifer Interference Policy to protect water resources across the state; the requirement for an agricultural impact statement as part of exploration proposals and new codes of practice covering drilling practices and hydraulic fracturing.
But farming and environment groups
say they have been sold out and the government has failed to live up to pre-election promises.
"We are also bitterly disappointed that despite mapping our 'strategic agricultural land' in two regions of the state, the new protections do not rule them off-limits to invasive exploration and mining activities," NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said.
Lock the Gate alliance president Drew Hutton said communities across NSW would continue to resist the expansion of the industry.
"This is an appalling policy and is nothing more than an invitation for high-impact, polluting activities to come on to almost any part of the state.
"The Gateway process is based on the assumption that resource extraction should not be ruled out anywhere, regardless of whether it comes on to good farm land or areas of high conservation value, endangers vulnerable aquifers, or is important for various key industries such as viticulture and horse breeding. Irrigators will be especially angry that aquifer interference measures have been downgraded from a regulation to a policy, leaving it as relatively toothless."
A total of 22 PELs were renewed, but the government highlighted that the total area under CSG exploration in NSW has been reduced by almost 2 million hectares.