CSG code 'fails to rule out fracking'

Last year's Stop Coal Seam Gas march on Sea Cliff Bridge.
Last year's Stop Coal Seam Gas march on Sea Cliff Bridge.

Opponents of coal seam gas mining have criticised new draft guidelines for the industry in NSW, saying they fail to address concerns about drinking water and the environment.

Released by the State Government yesterday, the draft code of practice sets minimum standards for the industry which Resources Minister Chris Hartcher described as ‘‘tough’’.

‘‘They will be difficult for the industry, but they will be manageable for the industry,’’ he said.

Tom Fontaine, director of Ormil Energy, a joint venture partner in a northern Illawarra coal seam gas project, welcomed the controls.

‘‘We believe we already exceed many of these guidelines, but think it’s important to have common sense guidelines like these for the industry,’’ he said.

However, Member for Keira Ryan Park said the code of practice failed to rule out fracking in the northern Illawarra catchment area beyond the April moratorium.

‘‘I cannot understand why the State Government doesn’t put a pause on the coal seam gas industry until the Federal Government’s detailed scientific examination is complete.

‘‘The community is not anti-mining, but we do want to know that it can be carried out safely, particularly here in the Illawarra and at the moment that is simply not known,’’ he said.

Stop CSG Illawarra campaigner Jess Moore said none of the three documents released, including a strategic regional land use plan and aquifer interference policy, mentioned drinking water catchments.

‘‘For us in the Illawarra the major concern is drinking water; we’ve got a project approved that risks the drinking water of 4.2million people in NSW and under current government policy, including these new announcements, that can continue,’’ Ms Moore said.

The CSG code of conduct will require exploration licence holders to have an access arrangement with landholders before exploring.

However, it will not give farmers the power to deny access to miners wanting to explore on their land.

‘‘If there is a dispute as to the terms of right of access, then that goes to ... arbitration,’’ Mr Hartcher said.

‘‘Then there is a final appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

‘‘It could not be a fairer or more transparent process.’’

Member for Kiama Gareth Ward urged Illawarra and Shoalhaven residents to give feedback on the draft code, with submissions being accepted for the next eight weeks.

Visit www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/regionallanduse to comment on the draft code and new guidelines.