Lismore City Councillor Peter Graham has signed an agreement with Metgasco to allow seismic testing on a family-owned property that straddles the border between Lismore and Richmond Valley council areas.
Cr Graham said he thought CSG could provide economic opportunities locally and was happy for Metgasco to gauge what gas reserves are on the land, which is bordered by Kyogle Road and Bungabee State Forest.
Metgasco has more than 300 different agreements with landowners in the Northern Rivers, covering seismic testing through to exploration, with more agreements being sought.
When asked if, as a fourth generation dairy farmer, he was concerned about the possible contamination of water from CSG operations, Cr Graham was quick to point out he had not signed any agreement for exploration, only testing.
Seismic testing involves emitting soundwaves which ricochet off geological layers, giving an indication of gas quantities. Metgasco pays landowners $200 per kilometre to compensate for any disturbance to the land, although Cr Graham and his family have forgone the payment.
"The agreement states they are only allowed on the property to conclude their seismic survey. If everything is up to standard for exploration it's a totally new agreement, a whole new ball game," Cr Graham said. "From my information seismic testing is not invasive... and I want more information on what could be there. I have no intention of going further than testing until state government authorities say that the okay is okay."
Cr Graham said he was not fully informed about the impacts of CSG or conventional gas exploration so in his mind the jury was still out.
He said that's why he urged Council in December to organise a confidential briefing to fully understand the pros and cons of the industry. His motion was not supported.
"There are always two sides to a story," he said. "I'm trying to see the good. We are all wanting cheaper electricity and cheaper power sources but as soon as something comes along we want to knock it before we find out enough about it."
Cr Graham said he was aware some CSG companies had "done the wrong thing" but didn't believe Metgasco should be tarred with the same brush.
"I've heard some terrible things… stories of outbreaks and contamination in south-east Queensland, but they are different companies," he said. "I would like to hope, and I don't have any doubt, that Metgasco are not in that league. We know people have done the wrong thing, but we also know there are people who have been in the industry for many years… who have successfully achieved their goals."
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