Metgasco does not have a “social licence”

Metgasco does not have a social licence: Janelle Saffin.
Metgasco does not have a social licence: Janelle Saffin. ALAN PORRITT

METGASCO does not have a "social licence" to drill for coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, Page MP Janelle Saffin told the Parliament on Monday night.

In a speech to the House of Representatives Ms Saffin said CSG was a "vexed issue" in her electorate.

The remarks came less than a week after Ms Saffin accused Resources Minister Martin Ferguson of "jumping on a bandwagon" after he criticised Southern Cross University research showing high methane levels in CSG fields near Tara, Queensland.

Ms Saffin went on to urge Mr Ferguson to "keep your nose out of our business".

Ms Saffin claimed the State Government's regional land use policy announced earlier this year had paved the way for Metgasco, and companies like it, to expand its operations.

"Overwhelmingly the community is saying 'no'," Ms Saffin said.

"State Government legislation says yes and ... Metgasco says this gives them a social licence because they have the approval of the State Government.

"But they do not have a community acceptance and therefore they do not have a social licence."

Ms Saffin said the key issue related to the effects of CSG operations on water, referring extensively to the National Water Commission's position statement on the issue.

She repeated earlier calls for an effective moratorium on CSG mining in certain areas to allow the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on CSG and Large Coal Mining Developments to do its work.

The committee has been charged with assessing the potential impact of these activities on water.

"Until we know the result of that process my view is there should be no coal seam gas mining activity at all on the land," Ms Saffin said.

The committee was formed as part of a National Partnership Agreement between the Federal Government and the states.

Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Victoria have all signed this agreement, which requires the Commonwealth and the states to "take the committee's advice into account in their assessment and approvals decisions". The committee's advice is not binding.

Legislation establishing the committee passed the federal parliament in October with bipartisan support, although an interim committee was already providing scientific advice on key projects.

Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the make-up of the scientific panel on Tuesday.

The eight-member committee will be chaired by Lisa Corbyn, a former CEO of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and director general of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

The committee, which was selected by Mr Burke following consultation with Cabinet colleagues and the states, comprises experts in the fields of hydrogeology, hydrology, ecology, geology, ecotoxicology and natural resource management.

Topics:  coal seam gas csg janelle saffin martin ferguson metgasco

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