Cancel or buyback gas exploration licences covering the Liverpool Plains

MEDIA RELEASE – 16 May 2018

NSW Greens energy and resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham called on the government to cancel or buyback petroleum exploration licences (PELs) covering the Liverpool Plains after the resources minister Don Harwin admitted in Question Time that the PELs were connected to the Narrabri gas project proposed by Santos.

NSW Greens energy and resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“The minister has let the cat out of the bag and confirmed what farmers have always fears – that the Narrabri gas project is the thin end of the wedge for coal seam gas across the region.

“It’s concerning that the Narrabri gas project may eventually expand to include coal seam gas wells on the Liverpool Plains.

“While Santos says it has ‘no plans’ to drill for gas in its exploration areas over the Liverpool Plains, the exploration areas are clearly connected and if the Narrabri project is approved they may become active exploration areas.

“The nature of unconventional gas is that it has to continually look for new gas wells to replace older wells. It moves across the landscape in a grid pattern.

“Farmers on the Liverpool Plains and elsewhere are right to be concerned that if the Narrabri gas project goes ahead, there area may be targeted for gas in the future.

“The government should give the farmers and community of the Liverpool Plains certainty and cancel or buyback these gas exploration areas.”

Video of the Question and Answer: https://youtu.be/lmO0vqOFsE4

LIVERPOOL PLAINS PETROLEUM EXPLORATION LICENCES

15 May 2018

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:23 ): My question is directed to the Minister for Resources, and Minister for Energy and Utilities. Six petroleum exploration licences cover part of the iconic Liverpool Plains. Given that at Santos’ recent annual general meeting its chief executive officer Kevin Gallagher told farmers that Santos has no plans to drill the wells in the Liverpool Plains but it cannot excise those parts of its licences that cover the Liverpool Plains and that it is something it will have to live with, will the Government provide certainty to the farmers of the Liverpool Plains by cancelling or buying back the parts of the petroleum exploration licences that cover the Liverpool Plains and permanently rule out gas extraction in this area?

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Rick Colless to order for the first time.

The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) ( 16:24 ): I thank Mr Jeremy Buckingham for his question. As he indicates, those licences do have a connection with the Narrabri project that is currently being investigated by Santos. The Santos-Narrabri project and its associated environmental impact statement [EIS] were lodged on 1 February 2017 and exhibited between February and May last year. It is a matter of public record that the EIS attracted a large number of submissions from the community and Government—the highest number of submissions ever received for a publicly exhibited EIS.

On 13 April, just a few weeks ago, the Department of Planning and Environment received Santos’ formal response to submissions for the project. The department is currently reviewing the response to submissions, which will be thoroughly considered by the department on its merits under legislation and New South Wales Government policy guidelines alongside the EIS. The application is currently progressing through a system of processes under the State significant development provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. I am sure Mr Jeremy Buckingham would be aware that the development assessment process is being handled by the Minister for Planning, but there are clear project benefits from the Narrabri—

Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. I do not believe the Minister is being genuinely relevant to the question which related to petroleum exploration licences over the Liverpool Plains. The Narrabri gas project is a distinct project. I asked a question about petroleum exploration licences [PELs] and not about the Narrabri gas project. The Minister has talked only about the Narrabri gas project. I ask that he be drawn back to the substance of the question.

The PRESIDENT: I will look at the question. I thank Mr Jeremy Buckingham for his point of order. I believe that the Minister is being generally relevant. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. DON HARWIN: The project can deliver on the Government’s priorities for a secure, reliable and affordable gas supply for the residents of New South Wales within the current market and related gas supply framework. It can provide a mid-to long-term domestic gas supply in New South Wales. It can also offer certainty to wholesale and retail customers in the short term by providing insulation from price shocks. It will have the capacity to generate up to 50 per cent of the State’s gas supply at peak production, or 200 terajoules a day for more than 25 years. I visited the site of the project and some of the wells that have been dug. I spoke to people in the community who are concerned about the project and I met with a range of groups in the Narrabri community. There is extremely strong support for the Santos-Narrabri gas project in the town of Narrabri. The community understands what this project is worth to the town. It also understands the royalties and what that would mean for the State Government.

The PELs surround the Narrabri Gas Project. Nevertheless, the project and what is affected is dealt with by the EIS. While the project is in the development assessment phase, I am not proposing to take any action on the PELs until that process is concluded. I note that the PEL that covers the area south of Gunnedah— [Time expired.]

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:30 ): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer about his comment that the petroleum exploration licences over the Liverpool Plains were “connected to the Narrabri Gas Project” by informing the House how they are connected to the Narrabri Gas Project?

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