In the dark over gas wells

DEVELOPMENT consent for coal seam gas (CSG) wells in the Illawarra – approval to drill and run them – has expired. But exactly what this means for the project is unclear.

Fifteen wells were approved for development under Part 3A in 2009, a determination amended to include a 16th well in 2011. However, the determination states that drilling and operation of the wells must take place within three years and before the expiry of one of two relevant licences, unless the director-general of the planning department steps in.

The two relevant licences – PEL 442 and PEL 444 – expired in February and April this year.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said the Department of Planning and Infrastructure would require a lawyer to determine what ‘expiry’ means.

“My drivers licence expires this month, and no amount of quibbling over the definition of ‘expiry’ will change this,” Ms Moore said.

“It is astounding that the planning department cannot tell us if drilling can happen at this time.

“Communities have been excluded from decision making about CSG, and still are not able to find out the status of CSG projects.

Ms Moore said the NSW Government should put a freeze on the CSG industry pending the results of a Royal Commission into its risks.

Stop CSG Illawarra wrote to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure on Monday, June 4 asking if drilling can happen at this time. No response has been received to date.

The Illawarra Mercury reported that “the expiry of PEL 442 means that at present the firm will not be able to drill its boreholes”. However a NSW Trade and Investment spokesperson told them “PEL 444 – and associated approvals – remain in force until the renewal application is determined”.

A Department of Resources and Energy spokesperson told the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader that “the company cannot explore of the 15 boreholes unless both PELs are in place”. The spokesperson did not mention the 16th well, approved in 2011.

About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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