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CSG Regulation Is “Frackmented”

By Ian Lowe

The coal seam gas industry in NSW is arguing against the need for buffer zones, while it’s “open slather” in Queensland.

The coal seam gas industry in NSW is arguing against the need for buffer zones, while it’s “open slather” in Queensland.

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I was plunged into the debate about coal seam gas at the recent Adelaide conference convened by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. I was on a panel with industry representatives and a former Australian government minister responsible for resources and energy, Martin Ferguson.

The industry people were unhappy that the NSW government had imposed what they saw as arbitrary restrictions on the development of coal seam gas extraction within 2 km of dwellings. They argued that there was no scientific basis for a buffer zone of 2 km, rather than 1 km or less – or more, I thought.

While the industry would prefer no limits on where they can drill, I am equally unhappy that the policy to restrict impacts on people in NSW is not complemented by corresponding protection for productive land, natural areas and biodiversity. This suggests that the aim of the limits is simply to minimise the number of unhappy voters.

By contrast, the Queensland government has adopted an “open slather” approach facilitating development almost anywhere. More than 1000 wells have now been drilled. Local opposition has generated the “Lock the Gate” movement, with quite conservative farmers and other rural landholders engaging in civil disobedience to prevent access to their land. A backbench MP has tabled a law that would protect agricultural land.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.