NSW Government should tear up MoU to fast track CSG mining in Pilliga

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The O’Farrell Government’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Santos to fast track the approval process for Coal Seam Gas mining in the Pilliga Forest should be torn up in light of revelations of contamination of the water aquifer, NSW Shadow Environment Minister Luke Foley said.

The call follows revelations that uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines has been discovered in the water aquifer near the Santos CSG project in north-western NSW.

The discovery prompted the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to issue Santos with a $1500 fine for the contamination – however the public were not alerted to the nature of the contamination.

Despite the alarming discovery and the issuing of a miniscule fine – just two days later the O’Farrell Government signed a MoU with Santos to speed up the project in the Pilliga forest.

Mr Foley said the O’Farrell Government’s decision to fast track approval of the project was extraordinary in light of this serious contamination.

“This contamination of the water aquifer is highly alarming,” Mr Foley said.

“It is unbelievable that the Deputy Premier would sign an MoU to fast track approval of this project just days after the discovery of a contamination of this magnitude.

“The MoU should be torn up in light of the contamination.

"The Pilliga is one of 15 national biodiversity hotspots and is the largest temperate woodland left in Australia. It is also home to the largest koala population in western NSW.

"In 2005, the Carr Labor Government protected 352,000 hectares of high conservation value Pilliga Forest.”

The O’Farrell Government has previously renewed the CSG exploration licences in the Pilliga Forest despite investigations into alleged licence breaches in the area having not been completed.

Santos has also previously faced prosecution over a spill of contaminated water and failure to lodge environmental management reports in relation to their activities in the Pilliga.