THE NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into coal seam gas has recommended that no new production licences are issued until a "comprehensive framework" for regulation of the industry is put in place.
It was one of 35 recommendations made by the committee established by the Greens Jeremy Buckingham and chaired by the Shooters and Fishers Robert Brown.
Other key recommendations are that a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing ("frakking") remains in place until the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme concludes its assessment, and that open water storage ponds for produced water and frakking fluids be banned.
There is also a recommendation to review the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 "with a view to strengthening landholders' rights" and compensation of their legal expenses.
Protecting agricultural land is addressed, but falls short of calling for 'no go' areas.
Instead, it has recommended the government fast-track its Strategic Regional Land Use Plans procedure to "achieve balanced co-existence".
The Inquiry ran for nine months and received more than 900 submissions from scientific experts, farmers, irrigators, gas industry representatives, bureaucrats and community representatives and held hearings across the state.
"The comprehensive inquiry has found there are significant risks associated with the coal seam gas industry and a lack of regulation. The sensible recommendations made in the Inquiry report seek to implement a cautionary approach to ensure we protect land and water resources in NSW," Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.
"The depth and breadth of community concern over a wide range of issues raised during this inquiry demonstrate that the coal seam gas industry has not earned a social licence to operate in NSW."
If the government accepts the recommendations and effectively puts the industry on hold, it would have serious implications for Metgasco's plans for the Northern Rivers region.
Metgasco has been in the exploration stage for several years and has about 300 agreements with land holders. They are hoping to step up to full scale commercial production this year.
"Metgasco reiterates that the coal seam gas industry is well understood, safe, already highly regulated and will add significant value to NSW. It can co-exist with other land users," CEO Peter Henderson said.
Local Lock the Gate spokesperson Boudicca Ceres said the Inquiry's report was "positive" in that in recognised "the significant areas of uncertainty about CSG extraction."
She said the precautionary principal should be followed and Lock the Gate would continue to argue that no new exploration licences should be issued and existing ones should be suspended until "all the issues are addressed".