After years of arguments, one of NSW’s most controversial energy maps – Santos’ $ 3.6 billion Narabri coal-fired gas project – has been approved by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC).
- There were concerns that the project would lead to groundwater contamination
- The IPC said Santos must meet “strict conditions” as the program continues
- NSW has no right to appeal against this decision under the Planning Act
The project for 850 coal-fired gas wells in the Billica region in the north of the state is expected to supply up to half of NSW’s gas needs.
In its causal statement, IPC said that approval of the project would be a step in the right direction and that Santos would have to meet “strict conditions” before reaching the construction and production stages.
Numerous concerns were raised about the potential consequences of the project on groundwater supply to nearby farmers.
But IPC said Santos’ groundwater modeling was appropriate.
“The Commission imposed conditions requiring additional information to improve the groundwater impact model before proceeding to Phase 2 of the project. [construction], ”It said.
Earlier this year, IPC conducted a seven-day public hearing on the project, which involved more than 400 submissions.
Critics have argued that there is not enough information about fractures and defects in rock formations that separate deep coal seams, from which gas is extracted.
They said shallow groundwater, which is important for domestic and agricultural water supply, could be polluted or dried up.
There has been a rapid reaction to this decision from opponents of the project.
David Chadwick, a stock and station agent based in Coonamble, southwest of Norfolk, said political pressure for a gas-led recovery from COVID-19 had “drowned” local public opinion.
The people of the first countries will try to fight this decision, said Polly Katmore, a Gomero woman.
“Billica Comoroi land and Santos are not welcome there,” he said.
Local people are interested in economic development
The project has the support of the Norfree Shire Council and the business community in the Northwest Territories.
Justin Smith, of Narabri Young Industries, said the approval provides an opportunity to reverse the population decline seen in the region in recent years.
“We’re really losing the resources we need to live here,” Mr Smith said.
“It’s a huge encouragement to all of us, which we are all trying to get and are excited to be involved in.”
NSW has no right to appeal this decision under the Planning Act.