Coal seam gas company Santos has been accused of misleading its shareholders after it submitted its development application and Environment Impact Statement to the New South Wales Government, for developing its gas reserves in northern New South Wales.
Late last year, it announced to the Australian Stock Exchange the $1.2 billion project would be demoted to a ‘non-core asset’, which sparked speculation the proposal was in jeopardy and could eventually be sold off.
The company has pressed ahead, seeking approval to drill up to 850 coal seam gas wells at 425 sites in and around the Pilliga state forest near Narrabri — covering an area of about 1,000 hectares.
The EIS concluded the project can be developed with “minimal and manageable risk to the environment”.
But farmer and Santos shareholder David Quince said he was disappointed the document was lodged.
“They’ve completely lied about this at all their AGMs. They’ve said they were concentrating on all their other areas,” Mr Quince said.
“It’s with horror we find they’ve secretly been going ahead with this.”
The lodgement comes after a three-year delay.
The project will need to secure the approval of both the State and Federal Governments.
The document is not yet publicly available, but the New South Wales Government said it would be placed on public exhibition “soon” for a period of 60 days.
The Department of Planning and Environment’s Director of Resources Assessments, Mike Young, said there would be public information sessions during the exhibition period, which would provide guidance on the planning assessment process and how to make a submission.
He said the dates would be announced shortly.
Santos: EIS based on 13,000 hours of site investigations
Santos released a fact sheet, in which it said the project could proceed safely with “minimal and manageable risk to the environment”.
It said water available to farmers and the community would be unaffected and the project would coexist with agriculture.
Santos said the EIS included extensive studies and modelling work on water, flora, fauna, soil, noise, air quality and cultural heritage.
It said it has drawn upon more than 13,000 hours of on-ground environmental surveys, carried out by environmental scientists.
Santos said significant impacts on threatened and endangered flora and fauna would be avoided through a number of mitigation measures, and 90 identified Aboriginal cultural heritage sites would be protected.
The project area is covered by the Gomeroi People’s Native Title Claim, and Santos said was working towards an agreement with the registered claimants.
The company said the project area did not contain strategic agriculture land as mapped by the NSW Government.
It pointed to the 2014 review of Coal Seam Gas by NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane, which concluded that, with appropriate safeguards and controls, natural gas from coal seams could be safely extracted.
Gas destined for East Coast market
The company said the project could supply up to half of New South Wales’ gas needs.
It says it would make the gas available to NSW and the east coast domestic market via a pipeline linking into the existing Moomba to Sydney Pipeline.
The pipeline will be constructed by APA Group and will be subject to a separate approval.
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