For New Matilda on the community rally outside of state parliament to hand-over a 20,000 strong petition calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas:
Barry O’Farrell didn’t show up to receive petitions at a rally on goal seam gas yesterday. Community groups are concerned that the NSW Premier isn’t taking the issue seriously, reports Kate Ausburn
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell snubbed 20,000 people from around NSW who added their name to the call for coal seam gas to be debated in parliament when he failed to show for a handover of petitions outside parliament yesterday.
Before the state election O’Farrell promised a parliamentary debate on any issue with a petition that received over 10,000 signatures of support. For the past few months community groups from around the state concerned about CSGdevelopment have collected signatures and yesterday rallied outside of Parliament House in Sydney hoping to give the petitions to the Premier.
Rally organisers sent a request to O’Farrell on 26 October inviting him to attend the event. Even with four weeks notice, the Premier failed to show up.
The protesters sung “C’mon Barry, c’mon, c’mon” before chanting “Shame, Barry, shame” when told the Premier did not intend to come outside to meet with them.
Jess Moore from community action group Stop CSG Illawarra called the snub “obnoxious” and said that O’Farrell’s no-show was a mark of disrespect toward the thousands of people from around the state who are worried about the CSG industry. “He’s not taking this issue seriously,” she said.
O’Farrell’s Coalition colleague Gareth Ward fronted the rally to receive the petitions and assured the crowd he would pass them on to the Premier.
Ward said that the issue of CSG would be debated in parliament because the community demanded it — but was quick to remind the crowd that the existing CSG exploration and production licences had been granted under previous Labor governments.
Opposition Leader John Robertson responded telling the rally that his party is now calling for a suspension of all CSG licences until studies had been undertaken to verify that underground water would be protected. “We do not want to see any new coal seam gas licences,” he said.
Protesters said they welcomed Labor’s “back-flip” on CSG and invited the Coalition to support Labor’s newly adopted position.
Greens MLA Jamie Parker and Labor MLA Ryan Park also attended the rally and committed to supporting a “real debate” on CSG.
The petition calls on the state government to impose a ban on fracking. It calls for a royal commission into the impacts of CSG and for an immediate moratorium on the industry.
Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton told the rally that the there was already a people’s moratorium against CSG. Referring to the recent successful blockade against Santos by Liverpool Plains farmers, Hutton said industry and government could expect continuing “respectful civil disobedience”. He said, “Every time the gas companies try to come on to our land we will blockade them, we will block the gate to lock the gate.”
Premier O’Farrell made no comment on his no-show at the community rally.
My story for New Matilda on the contested science around life-cycle emissions of coal seam gas production:
A parliamentary inquiry into coal seam gas in NSW is underway – and the reliance of industry and the government on out-of-date research about gas emissions is under question, reports Kate Ausburn
Research indicating that coal seam gas is a low emission energy source is being questioned — but the NSW Government told a parliamentary inquiry hearing in Sydney last week that this wasn’t of great consequence in planning for the state’s clean energy future.
After a week in which the reliability of the research used by both the CSG industry and NSWgovernment to promote CSG as a clean energy option was scrutinised, Mark Paterson from the NSWDepartment of Trade and Investment maintained that it was “likely” that coal seam gas would produce lower emissions than coal and that it was therefore a critical transitional fuel.
When quizzed by Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham on how much weight had been given to the question of fugitive emissions in the government’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry, Paterson said it was “one small part of the overall considerations the government would have.” He continued, “Is it influential in itself? No.”
“We haven’t modelled an unlikely proposition to inform the government’s submission,” said Paterson when pressed by Buckingham on what the government would do if new data indicated that CSG would produce higher than expected emissions.
Brad Mullard from the Mineral Resources and Energy office in the NSW Department of Primary Industries said that previous production in other markets indicates CSG would have lower emissions than coal.
This comes following claims last week from renewable energy research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) that the NSW government is using outdated research to justify CSG as a transitional energy source.
BZE say they commissioned a report into the “true emissions impact” of the CSG industry from Worley Parsons, a company that has a multi-million dollar contract with Queensland Gas Company (QGC). BZE allege the report has been suppressed by Worley Parsons to protect their contract with QGC.
BZE said in a statement: “There is no Australian field data on fugitive emissions,” and “the American Petroleum Industry data that the industry and government rely on is outdated and superseded”.
Also raising questions about emissions from CSG is multi-national financial advisory group Merrill Lynch who last week warned clients to be wary of advice from the CSG industry when making investment decisions.
In a briefing document sent to clients, Merrill Lynch say that the emissions intensity of unconventional gas sources may be substantially greater than industry reports claim and that this should be considered as a factor that “may directly impact future earnings in terms of carbon liability”.
“Accurate measurement is important because methane (CH4) has far greater GHG impact thanCO2 itself, tonne-for-tonne. CH4 emissions arise from the initial stages of drilling, fraccing, completing and bringing a well on-line, and also from compression and potential leakage from pipelines and other facilities,” the document explained.
Despite these concerns around the available research, the state government is in what Mullard described as “very advanced stages” of policy development to regulate the CSG industry. “We are looking at developing standards to make sure what we have in place in NSW is in line with global best practice,” he said.
Paterson told the inquiry that the government was using the current science and had responded accordingly. Paterson referred to a state-wide moratorium on the use of fracking to stimulate gas flow, introduced in NSW earlier this year.
Mullard would not comment on whether the temporary ban on fracking, set to expire at the end of the year, would be extended.
Drew Hutton, environmentalist and president of Lock the Gate Alliance also provided testimony at the inquiry hearing in Sydney. Hutton said that public pressure for a more critical consideration of the environmental and economic viability of the CSG industry continues to mount and that imposing a moratorium while obtaining independent scientific assessment about the impact of the industry remained essential.
Hutton raised concern about the conversion of CSG into liquefied natural gas for export, saying that the process raises overall life-cycle emissions from CSG production by a further 20 per cent.
“The liquification process is heavily energy intensive,” said Hutton, echoing the concerns of BZEand Worley Parsons about existing research, “A lot of APPEA’s (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) research is out of date and using methodologies that underestimate fugitive emissions.”
Mullard countered that CSG is a necessary and important part of the state’s future energy mix, “The more gas you have, the more renewables you can have,” he said explaining, “It can come on stream very quickly from shortfalls when sun isn’t shining or wind blowing.”
“You actually need gas.”
Independent MP for New England Tony Windsor has announced he will support the government’s mining resource rent tax (MRRT) after his demands around closer assessment of coal seam gas development were agreed to.
Mr Windsor said he had three demands.
The first, which occurred last week, was for Santos to abandon its plans to drill exploratory coal seam gas (CSG) wells near Gunnedah in NSW until independent water studies were conducted.
The second was for the Federal Government to use a portion of the tax revenue to conduct assessments of regions or catchments to look at the impact of coal seam gas (CSG) development. [...]
The third issue involves talks at the next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting regarding the possibility of water concerns being a trigger for federal environmental approval of CSG projects.
Independent MP for Lyne Rob Oakeshott has also agreed to support the MRRT.
The first Sydney hearing of the NSW parliamentary inquiry into coal seam gas commenced this morning with Santos (who have just taken over Eastern Star Gas CSG interests) coming before the panel. A few notes from their opening statement and responses to questions from the inquiry committee:
that plans for the Mullaley pipeline had been “divisive” and announce they will withdraw current Mullaley pipeline route.
that their coal seam gas development would create over 1000 jobs in rural NSW.
that they will release a “detailed expert report on economic benefits” of CSG in the next few weeks.
that there will be “3 years of research before any significant development”.
that there have been “no concerns from communities we operate within” and that there will always be groups that misconstrue or oppose projects, “At the end of the day science will prevail.”
looking at aquifer system is the “next phase of work,” “once that information is in the public domain people will see what we are doing is safe and sustainable” and Santos will be able to “continue business is this state”.
when quizzed on land access agreements that they aim “not to go down a legal or process driven” path. Santos rep said would provide an example of a land-access agreement (requested by Peter Primrose MLC).
that “modelling indicates” a $150million a year royalty return from a few hundred CSG wells. Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham asked for confirmation, saying would it not take many more wells (thousands) for a “royalty return of that magnitude,” Buckingham asked Santos to confirm if their development would therefore be made up of less than 1000 wells. Santos representative said “clearly we can’t be precise at this stage.” Santos also said, “we are at a very early stage … the area has a unique geology … very thick coal seams … lends self to lateral drilling … in effect one well is equivalent to several wells” (note: assume comparison is to Queensland or different drilling techniques).
they acknowledge behaviour of some small companies has meant “there is a reason why there is some disquiet, unrest, even fear” from community about CSG.
“without the right regulation communities do not have trust or faith … we support strong regulation because it lifts the bar.”
The Government of Western Australia together with oil and gas company Woodside have plans to develop James Price Point (JPP) in the Kimberley into a major gas hub. Click here to learn more about what’s happening at JPP.
There is an ongoing campaign waged by locals, traditional owners and environmentalists to save JPP and the Kimberley from inappropriate development. On Halloween they took to the streets… and country, to creatively say no to destruction of the Kimberley coast, watch here: