On 8 November 2012, the New South Wales Government dismissed key recommendations made by the Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas, saying its policies are “more effective” [PDF].
The Inquiry itself showed that CSG development can and has contaminated land and water. It also showed not enough is known about CSG, particularly when it comes to ground water and methane leaks. CSG wells have leaked methane and contaminated water, spills have leached arsenic, lead, chromium, salts and petrochemicals into soil, and the industry itself has asserted aquifers will be damaged. In Tara the Queensland Government found that half of the CSG wells there were leaking at the time of testing.
In other words, it pointed to the need for a freeze on CSG, to further investigate if and under what conditions it’s safe to develop.
The Inquiry was conducted by a number of Upper House politicians, most of whom did not endorse this. However, a majority of those on the panel recommended:
- Fracking be banned while chemicals are assessed;
- That all wells require aquifer interference approval, that is, rule out wells that could damage ground water systems;
- A ban on the open storage of produced water;
- Appoint a Petroleum Ombudsman; and
- That CSG production require access agreements with landholders.
Yet even these recommendations have been rejected by the Government at this time:
- They have lifted the freeze on fracking, though chemicals have not yet been assessed for their intended use and toxicity.
- The test for aquifer interference has been downgraded to have no legal standing. Rather than requiring aquifer interference approval, the Government’s rules offer an evaluation of the potential impacts on ground water systems “to be considered”.
- While evaporation ponds have been banned, the Government asserts that “temporary large storage areas may be required”; that is, the open storage of produced water is still allowed, and for an undefined period of time – a loophole open to abuse.
- A Petroleum Ombudsman has not been appointed.
- The Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 still does not require a licence holder to enter into an access agreement with a landholder for CSG production.
This points to the Inquiry being a sham; one that wasted the resources of Government, individuals, communities and organisations. The Government is not only ignoring calls from communities for a science first approach, it is even ignoring recommendations from its own Inquiry.