Fracking divides Baird govt



NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Troy Grant has reportedly split the Baird Government by calling for a ban on coal-seam gas mining in the state’s north.

According to News Corp, this could damage the NSW economy and cost taxpayers up to $140 million.

Gas miner Metgasco invested $140 million developing three CSG exploration licences in the Lismore and Clarence electorates and would demand compensation if a ban was put in place.

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“I support the views of regional communities and it has been made very clear that the Northern Rivers community does not want CSG,” News Corp quoted Mr Grant saying ahead of Friday’s NSW Nationals conference.

Mr Grant’s call to block CSG mining in the Northern Rivers followed the Nats’ disastrous performance in the March state election, when they lost the previously safe Ballina seat to the Greens.

Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson accused the Nationals of caving to fanatical “far-left Greens” in the Northern Rivers.

Jeremy Buckingham says coal-seam gas mining should be banned.

Jeremy Buckingham says coal-seam gas mining should be banned. Photo: AAP

“There’s a small group of people who are anti-fossil fuel, anti-development — the far-left Greens — and it’s become almost a religion with them,” Mr Henderson told News Corp.

He also warned that any blanket ban on CSG in the area would trigger huge compensation claims and smash business confidence.

Party members were expected to consider a formal policy banning CSG from the region on Saturday.

Premier Mike Baird refused to say if Mr Grant had lobbied him to support a complete ban on CSG in the Northern Rivers, and declined to say whether he would support such a move.

“NSW has the toughest CSG standards in the country, delivering world’s best practice regulation,” Mr Baird said.

An 18-month study by the state’s chief scientist concluded that CSG extraction was safe and that any risks associated with its extraction methods could be managed.

But in April, NSW environmentalists and the Greens staged a protest against coal-seam gas mining, after a report revealed gas shortages in the state were unlikely.

The government had previously pointed to supply shortages as a reason to pursue gas projects in order to keep energy prices down.

Greens NSW mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said coal-seam gas mining should be banned across the state following the report.

“The Baird Government should revise its NSW Gas Plan to exclude coal-seam gas, given it is unnecessary, has been comprehensively rejected by voters and is not worth the risk to land and water,” Mr Buckingham said in a statement.

Community lobby Lock The Gate urged “a complete redrafting of New South Wales onshore gas policy”.

with AAP

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