O’Farrell Bypasses Scientific Advice to Approve Coal Seam Gas Licenses

 The O’Farrell Government’s draft strategic land use policy gives Ministers the power to bypass independent scientific panels and approve Coal Seam Gas extraction licenses in secret at the cabinet table, the NSW Labor Opposition said today.

“The O’Farrell Government’s draft strategic land use policy gives politicians the power to green light Coal Seam Gas extraction licenses, regardless of how close they are to homes and prime agricultural land,” Opposition Leader, John Robertson said today.

“Cabinet may declare a project to be an exceptional circumstance project if the subject resource is of exceptional value to the state. For an exceptional circumstance project, the requirement for a gateway certificate would not apply.”

(p86, New England North West and Upper Hunter Draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plan)

“Under this new policy, Ministers would be given the power to bypass independent approval requirements if the Coal Seam Gas project had ‘exceptional value’,” Mr Robertson said.

“This strategy is not what the people of NSW were led to believe would occur prior to the election.

“This sneaky addition on page 86 flies in the face of the O’Farrell Government’s commitment to having independent panels scrutinising Coal Seam Gas license approvals.

“The O’Farrell Government is politicising the Coal Seam Gas industry approvals process and offering no protection to areas with ‘high value’ projects nearby.

“Even the Government’s own aquifer interference policy will allow Coal Seam Gas pilot or test wells to operate for years before an aquifer license would be required.

“While elements of this policy are positive, the fact restrictions would only occur in the extraction process and not the lengthy exploration period beforehand would still allow significant damage to potentially occur.

“The O’Farrell Government needs to adopt Labor’s policy to suspend all current Coal Seam Gas exploration licenses and cease issuing new extraction licenses to protect the State’s aquifers and water resources.

“Until a water-tight regulatory framework is in place based on independent scientific research and conclusive evidence, we should not be allowing Coal Seam Gas mining to proceed unabated.

“Instead of sneakily giving itself the power to approve major Coal Seam Gas projects under the cover of darkness, the O’Farrell Government needs to act now to protect our precious ground water resources.”

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