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NSW to fast track CSG project

World Coal,

The government of New South Wales has moved to fast track the Santos coal seam gas (CSG) drilling project in Pilliga, near Narrabri.

The Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner, signed a memorandum of understanding with Santos, designating it a ‘strategic energy project’ and guaranteeing a final decision on whether or not to approve the project by January 2015.

Pipeline and road network

The project will extract gas worth AU$ 2 billion and involve drilling hundreds of gas wells and building a large network of roads and pipelines.

Stoner said the project had the potential to supply 20 – 50% of NSW’s gas needs, and an approval by next year would mean the gas could start flowing by 2017.

''Importantly the agreement does not pre-judge or bypass the state's rigorous assessment processes for projects of this nature,'' Stoner explained.

CSG opponents

A number of opponents have voiced concerns over the CSG project, with farmers and environmental groups compiling reports about the alleged damage to the Pilliga woodland area.

"'This agreement has the potential to set a dangerous precedent for future fast tracking of gas projects which our farmers and rural communities just won't swallow,'' NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said.

She said farmers would be concerned if the fast-tracked planning process prioritised gas drilling over agriculture.

Community concerns

Santos explained it was working to address community concerns. Company VP, James Baulderstone, commented: “Santos employees and others that work with us will continue to treat the local community with respect and actively engage with them as the [project] develops.

''We confirm our long-stated position that we will not come onto a farmer's land to drill a well without their consent.

''While we acknowledge there are segments of the broader community that hold different views on the importance of developing NSW natural gas resources, we ask that they also respect landholders' right to decide to work with Santos without undue harassment and intimidation.''

Edited from various sources by Katie Woodward

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