Gas gets the go ahead in Gloucester

THE Land andEnvironment Court has dismissed a challenge that sought to prevent coal seamgas (CSG) mining in the Gloucester valley.
Nanjing Night Net

An anti-CSG rally in the Gloucester valley in 2010.

A challenge waslodged by the Environmental Defenders Office in June last year on behalf of theBarrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance (BGSPA) against a decisionby the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to grant energy giant AGLapproval to proceed with plans to mine CSG in the area.

BGSPA spokesmanGraeme Healy said the court’s decision was a bitter pill to swallow.

“There iswidespread disappointment about the decision,” he said.

“We will belooking at the decision in detail over coming days with a view to issuing acomprehensive statement at a later date.

“The caseexemplifies just how bad the notorious Part 3A (planning conditions) reallywere and will continue to be for years to come.

“Although it hasnow been repealed, projects in the pipeline and any modifications to existingprojects, will continue to be determined under Part 3A.”

In early 2010 AGLapplied for overall concept approval to develop a three-stage methane gas fieldin the Stroud and Gloucester valleys.

The plan includeda compression plant and a pipeline from Stratford to Hexham.

At the same timeAGL also applied for development consent for stage one of the plan – 110 gaswells and associated infrastructure.

In November 2010,the Department of Planning recommended approval of both applications to thethen Minister, who was the consent authority under Part 3A of the Planning Act.

The Ministerdelegated his authority to the PAC, which approved the applications in Februarylast year.

Yesterday AGLreleased a brief statement welcoming the court’s decision:

“AGL EnergyLimited welcomes the decision by the court to uphold the approvals grantedunder Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) forthe Gloucester Gas Project’s overall concept plan and stage one development.The Gloucester Gas Project is part of the solution to meet, in anenvironmentally responsible way, the growing demand for energy in NSW.”

In challengingthe PAC decision, the BGSPA had argued that the conditions imposed in relationto both groundwater and wastewater in the project approval had left open thepossibility of a significantly different development from that for whichapproval was sought.

The group alsoargued that the PAC failed to correctly formulate and properly consider theprecautionary principle in approving the project.

In handing downher decision on Monday, Land and Environment Court judge Justice Rachel Pepperdismissed both arguments.

“First, properlyconstrued, the conditions about which complaint is made in relation to theproject approval are within the permissible limits of the power pursuant towhich they were imposed and are not uncertain with respect to impacts,” shesaid.

“Second,notwithstanding that the precautionary principle is a mandatory relevantconsideration forming part of the public interest, the principle was adequatelyconsidered by the PAC in granting the project approval. It follows that theamended summons must be dismissed.”

But Mr Healy saidit was interesting to note Justice Pepper’s opening remarks:

“It is a matterof common knowledge that the exploration for, and use of, coal seam gas is contentious.This judgment will, however, do little to quell the current anxiety surroundingthe coal seam gas mining debate. In this regard it must be understood that themerits, or otherwise, of the use of this resource are irrelevant to the issuesraised for determination by these judicial review proceedings, concerning, asthey do, only the lawfulness of the approval under challenge.”

He said most ofthe issues about water which BGSPA sought to have addressed were considered togo to the merits of the case and were not able to be addressed.

“I expect thatthe community will still wish to press its demand for an independenthydrogeological study of the entire Gloucester basin to be undertaken beforeany further exploration or development is undertaken by AGL,” he said.

“An IndependentExpert Scientific Committee on CSG and coal mining has been established by thefederal government to ensure that future decisions about the potentialwater-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining activities areinformed by substantially improved science and independent expert advice.

“It would seem tobe an appropriate means by which to address the community’s concerns.”

AGL said adecision on when to proceed with the drilling of the Waukivory pilot had notyet been made, however, the company would inform the community about thecommencement of works.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Posted by at 21/04/2019
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