Parker won't rule out approving coal seam gas mining in conservation areas

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Environment Minister Robyn Parker has today refused to rule out approving Coal Seam Gas mining in high value conservation areas – placing the iconic Pilliga forests at risk.

"Coal Seam Gas mining has never been approved in any NSW State Conservation Area, yet Environment Minister Robyn Parker today refused to rule out future approvals," Shadow Environment Minister, Luke Foley said.

"Robyn Parker was asked by the Labor Opposition on a number of occasions to rule out allowing Coal Seam Gas mining in protected areas, but point blank refused to do so.

"Instead of recognising the risks posed to our threatened native plants and animals by Coal Seam Gas mining, Ms Parker argued that she would 'consider all proposals on their merits'.

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

"The Pilliga is one of 15 national biodiversity hotspots identified by the Federal Government and is the largest temperate woodland left in Australia.

"The Pilliga is also home to the largest koala population in western NSW.

"The Eastern Star Gas (now Santos) proposal for the Pilliga would see the sinking of 1100 wells, 1000 kilometres of roads and pipelines and the fragmentation of 85,000 hectares of this precious woodland.

"No exploration drilling by Eastern Star Gas (now Santos) has ever been approved, nor undertaken, in the Pilliga East State Conservation Area.

"While some underground mining activity has taken place in conservation areas, State Conservation Areas have always been protected from Coal Seam Gas mining.

"The NSW Opposition is calling on the O'Farrell Government to cease issuing Coal Seam Gas extraction licences and refuse applications to expand existing operations until a scientific consensus on its impact can be reached.

"In order for any Coal Seam Gas mining to be undertaken within a State Conservation Area, approval must be given by the Minister for the Environment under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

"Frighteningly, Robyn Parker left the door open to that possibility today."