Win for gas blockade as Santos pulls back

SMH - Ben Cubby - 15.11.2011

COAL seam gas drilling at a flashpoint site on the edge of the Liverpool Plains has been halted after the state’s biggest coal seam gas operator, Santos, backed down, ending a three-week blockade by residents.
It is understood Santos has agreed not to drill exploratory wells at Spring Ridge, south of Gunnedah, until a detailed government study of the Namoi water catchment has been completed in April.

The compromise, brokered by the Nationals MP Kevin Anderson, was greeted as a victory by farmers involved in the blockade. On October 27, they parked vehicles across the entrance and had been maintaining the obstruction to stop drilling.
”This is the only blockade that has ever led to a coal seam gas company pulling out,” said Tim Duddy, a Liverpool Plains farmer who undertook a similar blockade in 2009 to stop coalmining under his property.

Santos recently announced a $924 million takeover of Eastern Star Gas, making it the largest coal seam gas operator in NSW. Its plans include drilling 1100 wells in the Pilliga scrubland in northern NSW.

The halt came as the O’Farrell government was forced into damage control over coal seam gas exploration after the Minister for Western NSW, Kevin Humphries, appeared to foreshadow a suspension of pilot production across the state.

Discussing the government’s approach to the gas exploration in a radio interview before a forum in Narrabri, Mr Humphries, the Nationals MP for Barwon, raised the issue of companies moving to pilot production under exploration licences.

”We’re looking to work with industry – and you’ll hear more about that during the week – on them standing down until we’ve got a much tighter regime, particularly when it comes to water or aquifer interference,” he said.

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