O'Farrell Government renews CSG licences in the Pilliga – Before investigation into licence breaches concludes

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The O'Farrell Government has renewed the exploration licences for the Coal Seam Gas industry in the iconic Pilliga Forest – despite the fact a departmental investigation into alleged licence breaches in the area has not yet been completed.

Under questioning from the NSW Labor Opposition during budget estimates today, Energy and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher would not disclose who in his department is conducting the investigation into Coal Seam Gas spills in the Pilliga Forest.

Mr Hartcher advised that a preliminary report has been handed to his Director General, but that the investigation is yet to conclude.

However, last month the Minister issued an Offer of Renewal so Santos could renew their licence to continue Coal Seam Gas operations in the Pilliga Forest.

"It is extraordinary the O'Farrell Government would renew Coal Seam Gas operation licences in the Pilliga Forest when investigations into alleged breaches of the

Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 are still far from complete," Shadow Environment Minister, Luke Foley said today.

"The Santos proposal for the Pilliga would see the sinking of 1100 wells, 1000 kilometres of road and pipelines and the fragmentation of 85,000 hectares of this precious woodland.

"The government's so called investigation into these breaches is nine months old, yet the Minister refused to provide any information on its progress to the estimates hearing and there has still been no update to the Parliament or the people of NSW.

"The O'Farrell Government also promised to deliver a preliminary investigative report by March 2012, and today we are still none the wiser.

"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.

"Renewing Coal Seam Gas licences in the Pilliga in the midst of an investigation into suspected licence breaches confirms the O'Farrell Government is in no way serious about protecting our land and water from Coal Seam Gas activity."