AGL Energy’s proposal to drill up to 66 coal-seam gas wells in south-west Sydney is being considered by the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission, in the first major CSG plan to be assessed under new ”state significant development” planning rules. The Sydney Morning Herald reportsthat the proposal also represents the first expansion of gas drilling into suburban Sydney, with clusters of six wells each planned at 11 sites between Campbelltown and Liverpool – some of them only a few hundred metres away from suburban streets (although, as AGL points out, “all the proposed well site locations meet the mandatory distance criteria of at least 200m from an occupied dwelling.” Lucky for AGL they’re not wind turbines.)
The Planning Department’s acting director-general, Richard Pearson, said in a statement that the assessment process would be ”rigorous and transparent” and involve the public. “It also follows the release of a number of other stringent measures such as the Aquifer Interference Policy as part of the government’s Strategic Regional Land Use Policy,” he said. But AGL hopes to have the proposal approved as a state significant development, a change that was made “in response to community concerns” with the Part 3A planning system. As the SMH‘s Ben Cubby reported today, “this means that public hearings into the project will be held, but once a decision is made it will not be able to be challenged in the Land and Environment Court.”
Meanwhile, a new report has claimed that Australia’s biggest coal-seam gas field has been leaking huge amounts of methane, undetected – contrary to gas industry claims. The SMH reports that researchers at Southern Cross University who tested inside the Tara gasfield, near Condamine on Queensland’s western downs, found some greenhouse gas levels more than three times higher than nearby districts.
Also in NSW, the state government has announced it is ready to commence talks with EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy on the first tranche of its power generation asset sell-off, through which it hopes to raise $3 billion-plus to spend on infrastructure.
ABC News reports that NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has also given the green light to sell or lease the Coborra coal mine development in state’s central west. But the SMH reports today that Baird has cast doubt over whether the government would include the agreement to build a coalmine at Cobbora – designed to provide cheap coal to the buyers of electricity assets sold by the former Labor government – saying it created ”significant risks and massive liabilities” for the state.