Monday, 12 June 2017

Coal Seam Gas Exploration and Mining potentially allowable in the NSW Northern Rivers region once more

“The Minister must not grant a petroleum title over any of the following land (the excluded areas):
(a)  an area designated by the Minister, by notification published in the Gazette, as an area in respect of which a petroleum title is not to be granted,”  [Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 No 84, current version for 6 January 2017 to date] 

In 2015 the NSW Baird Coalition Government announced that its NSW Gas Plan included:
Action 4 of the NSW Gas Plan [2.84 MB] is to establish a one-off buy-back of petroleum exploration licences (PELs) for titleholders across the state. This provides an opportunity for holders of PELs to surrender their titles. The NSW Government commenced the buy-back program on 11 December 2014. 
To date, the NSW Government has bought back the following PELs:

PEL 2 (AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd) view map  [5549 KB] & view map  [1762 KB]
PEL 4 (AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd) view map  [2854 KB]
PEL 5 (AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd) view map  [352 KB]
PEL 267 (AGL Upstream Investments Pty Ltd) view map  [4434 KB]
PEL 437 (Pangaea PEL 437 Pty Ltd) view map  [426 KB]
PEL 442 (Apex Energy NL & Sydney Basin CBM Pty Ltd) view map  [418 KB]
PEL 444 (Apex Energy NL & Sydney Basin CBM Pty Ltd) view map  [392 KB]
PEL 445 (Dart Energy (Bruxner) Pty Ltd) view map  [2.64MB]
PEL 454 (Apex Energy NL & Sydney Basin CBM Pty Ltd) view map  [381 KB]
PEL 457 (ERM Gas Pty Ltd) view map  [1 MB]
PEL 459 (Dart Energy (Apollo) Pty Ltd) view map  [432 KB]
PEL 460 (Dart Energy (Apollo) Pty Ltd) view map  [280 KB]
PEL 463 (Dart Energy (Apollo) Pty Ltd) view map  [362 KB]
PEL 464 (Dart Energy (Apollo) Pty Ltd) view map  [403 KB]
PEL 476 (Pangaea Oil & Gas Pty Ltd) view map  [450 KB]
PEL 478 (Clarence Moreton Resources Pty Ltd ERM Gas Pty Ltd) view map  [425 KB]
PEL 479 (Clarence Moreton Resources Pty Ltd ERM Gas Pty Ltd) view map  [694 KB]

In November 2015 the Baird Government added Metgasco Limited’s PEL 13, PEL 16 and PEL 426 to this buyback list.

The NSW Nationals Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis called on communities to “trust the NSW Gas Plan” to make the Northern Rivers gas field free.

Although buybacks occurred, to date the NSW Northern Rivers region does not appear to have been gazetted as an area in respect of which a petroleum title is not to be granted.

In June 2017 the NSW Berejiklian Coalition Government released its NSW STRATEGIC RELEASE FRAMEWORK FOR COAL AND PETROLEUM and surprise, surprise, the Northern Rivers region is once again potentially available for exploitation by unconventional gas mining corporations by way of an exploration licence auction process – highest bidder above the government reserve declared the ‘lucky winner’.

The strategic release framework also states; The expunged petroleum title applications provisions under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, if triggered, still necessitate compliance this two part auction process…….An exception to this process is prescribed under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, Schedule 2, Expunged petroleum title applications. Expunged petroleum title applicants are required to be given first opportunity to make new applications, where the proposed new release area was the subject of an expunged application. To trigger this provision, the expunged title applicant must be the same entity. The two part auction process still applies. An expunged title applicant must satisfy the minimum standards, work program and reserve price requirements. There is no automatic granting of a prospecting title. An expunged title applicant may choose not to apply

In other words Gladys Berejiklian & Co are merrily inviting the same environmental vandals to return to the very land from which concerned local communities fought so hard to remove them.

This was Lock The Gate Alliance on the subject on 6 June 2017:

Lock the Gate Alliance says the NSW Government’s ‘Strategic release framework’ for coal and gas exploration, announced today, leaves the state’s groundwater and farmland unprotected.

Under the framework, parts of the state will be made available for coal and gas exploration and it has been announced that the new framework will immediately be applied to two areas in the state’s far west where explorers have sought access to unconventional gas. 

The new framework also allows holders of “expunged petroleum titles” to reapply for areas where licences have been bought back or cancelled, including in the Northern Rivers and Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

"There’s nothing in this framework that will prevent the Minister and the Cabinet opening up the Northern Rivers or Sydney’s drinking water catchment to new gas exploration” said Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods.

"The public is still waiting for long-overdue promises to protect farmland, water and communities from coal and unconventional gas mining to be delivered.

"Without those protections in place, this Strategic Release Framework is a major threat to our land and water resources.

"With a state election coming up in a year and a half, this failure is likely to lead to an electoral backlash from affected communities if it is not quickly addressed," she said.

The Framework is partly a response to ICAC made nearly four years ago and warning that the process for releasing coal exploration licences was "conducive to corruption” but Lock the Gate says there are important elements of these recommendations unfulfilled.

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