AFTER weeks of enquiries and confusion around the status of the Illawarra coal seam gas (CSG) project, opponents say they have finally received confirmation that drilling cannot go ahead in water catchment areas.
Development consent for all CSG wells in the Illawarra – approval to drill and run them – is now invalid, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure have told Stop Coal Seam Gas (CSG) Illawarra
Fifteen wells were approved for development in 2009, a determination modified to include a 16th well in 2011. However, the determination states that drilling and operation of the wells must take place before the expiry of one of two relevant licences, unless the director-general of the planning department determines otherwise. The two relevant licences to drill in the Illawarra expired in February and April this year, and another has lapsed.
Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said the expiry marks a serious setback to the local project.
“It puts a freeze on the immediate threat of CSG development to the Nepean and Woronora drinking water catchments,” she said.
“The Apex/Ormil joint venture must now apply for a modification to the project, and the Government will need to grant them both this and a new licence, to get the project up and running again.
“What the Government does now is a huge test. Will they reinstate the project in the face of enormous risk and community opposition?
“The campaign to protect land and water – to put science before development – will continue,” she said.
Meanwhile two new licences have been applied for over Wollongong. Both take in parts of the drinking water catchment, according to Stop CSG Illawarra.
Stop CSG Illawarra says Apex Energy has applied for a Petroleum Exploration Licence, while the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has applied for a Petroleum Special Prospecting Authority, despite strong objections from the Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council.
More: Illawarra Mercury