Lack of coal and gas puts NSW in a steam


WORDS | Brendon D’Souza

NSW has been battling a lot of environmental issues over the past few months.

The protests at Whitehaven Coal’s proposed Maules Creek Coal Mine site, which have been ongoing since November 2013, are showing no signs of ending. Despite this and the errors found in Whitehaven’s plan for biodiversity offsetting, the mine is set to go ahead. It will be Australia’s largest coal mine once constructed.

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, criticised the Federal Government’s approval of the mining site, and the abolishment of climate change legislation. “They have no intention of dealing with climate change – our greatest threat,” he said.

On 10 February this year, Ritter and other CEOs from national environmental groups involved in the protest, joined together to voice stronger opposition. Greenpeace later joined with the Gomeroi Traditional Owners of the Leard Forest, and religious leaders of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.

Almost a month later, on 4 March, Gomeroi elder, Dolly Talbott met with Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to discuss the protection of her People’s threatened sacred sites. Whilst Mr Hunt had requested an outline of the exact locations of the sacred sites, Talbott doubts the meeting had any effect on him. “I feel a bit deflated. He listened, but how much they [will] do about it, I don’t know,” she told The Guardian.

Elsewhere, energy company, Santos, has embarked on a project in response to gas shortages in NSW.

In February, an Energy White Paper conducted by the NSW Business Chamber, revealed that the State has almost three million terajoules (TJ) of untapped Coal Seam Gas (CSG) reserves. The Australian Energy Market Operator and consulting firm, Wood Mackenzie, warned that, unless projects to extract this gas are undertaken, NSW will see shortages in gas by 2016.


Santos claims their project will be beneficial to the Narrabri area and to NSW. About 200 TJ of natural gas could be produced each day, which is the equivalent of about half the State’s current requirements. Santos says they are committed to approaching the project with sustainability in mind, and minimising environmental and local community impacts.

NSW Farmers President Fiona Simpson, told SMH that farmers should be concerned if gas drilling is being prioritised over agriculture. There are current fears that gas mining will contaminate clean water supplies, and damage sensitive forest. And some of those fears have become reality after it was revealed Santos had been fined $1500 by the NSW Environment Protection Authority after a CSG project in northern NSW was found to have contaminated drinking water supplies. Water from the Bibblewindi water treatment plant was found to be contaminated with 335 micrograms of uranium per litre. This is 20 times greater than allowable levels. Santos were fined in January for contamination of the same site, and for refraining from reporting the incident.

For any Macquarie University students and staff wishing to voice their concerns over NSW’s coal and gas expansion plans, a new campaign “Our Land, Water, Future” has begun in the Lane Cove/Ku-Ring-Gai area. To find out more,