Coffee drunk, cake eaten and the CSG industry unravelled

SP+JL+AS+JELast night’s community meeting to delve into the more technical aspects of CSG mining and the specific impact to the Mountain Districts aquifers explored a range of sobering areas. Kulnura local and Geotechnical Forensic expert Andrew Shirley spoke at depth on the risks posed to our aquifers by CSG mining. Julie Lyford, former Mayor of Gloucester nor full time activist and Chair of Groundswell Gloucester took time from her busy schedule to share with us a glimpse of the hard battle Gloucester residents are engaged in with AGL to stop the town and rich farming industry being decimated by CSG mining.

Everyone also enjoyed a fantastic spread of cakes provided by the Gasfield Free Mountain committee.

Pictured above (from left to right) Simon Perry (Co-convenor Gasfield Free Mountain Districts), Julie Lyford, Andrew Shirley, John Edye (Co-convenor Gasfield Free Mountain Districts).

We’d again like to thank Julie and Andrew for their fantastic presentations and generosity in spending time to share their knowledge. A very thought-provoking session.

A detailed report will be posted soon.

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Save the water trigger for CSG mining

It seems there is a high likelihood that the Senate will next week vote down the water trigger on large scale coal and gas projects, which was only just introduced last year.  Below is a sign on statement that we are urgently seeking people and groups to add their names to, if they want to save the water trigger. 

Please copy and paste the text between “-start-” and “-end-“, specify the appropriate information if you are a farmer or represent a community group, customise your name at the bottom, and send the following information by email to carmelflint@tpg.com.au if you want to make a difference and try to ensure that impacts to the water table are considered when CSG mining approvals are being considered. To be clear, the couple of places where you need to customise your repose are highlighted in BOLD RED. Carmel Flint is  Campaign Co-ordinator, Lock the Gate Alliance.

-start-
Farmers – Name, property name, locality, state
Group – Person representing, group name, locality, state

To all members of the Australian Senate,

Water is integral to farming, food security, Indigenous life and culture, our communities and Australia’s economy. It is too important to leave to state and territory governments and their vested interests, which have been especially highlighted through the recent NSW ICAC investigations into political corruption.

All political parties voted for the water trigger to be added to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act so the Federal Government could assess impacts of mining developments on our precious groundwater, yet the Abbott Government now proposes to hand these powers to the states and territories.

Decisions over groundwater are too important to hand to individual states, and water knows no boundaries. A decision on groundwater in one state will affect neighbouring states. The Great Artesian Basin alone covers three states, NSW, Queensland and South Australia, as well as the Northern Territory. Gas companies want to puncture this essential water resource for inland Australia with hundreds of wells.

We implore all senators to vote against the Abbott Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014, which will hand groundwater assessment powers to states and territories.

The National Party will be voting against the farmers’ interests if they vote for the bill. The Palmer United Party and Senator Ricky Muir have shown they will stand up for the community and now they have the opportunity to show they support farmers and indigenous communities across Australia and vote down the bill”.

Yours Sincerely: ADD-YOUR-NAME-HERE

– end –

The renewal of AGL’s Petroleum Exploration License #2

In correspondence with AGL’s Community Engagement team we recently learned that PEL#2 was in renewal phase. The fact is that as per the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 when a PEL is renewed the license holder must forfeit at least 25% of the PEL area on renewal “unless special circumstances exist”.

To be clear – that doesn’t mean that any area that is forfeited can’t ever have another PEL taken out over it by another exploration company – indeed the goal of forfeiture is to ensure that PEL holdings are actively exploited by licensees; licensees are encouraged to drill everywhere as quickly as possible to ensure they understand which land areas hold most economic potential for them before the next renewal phase.

Unfortunately (and unfairly) there are no provisions for the communities within the PEL area to provide any input whatsoever that may influence the consideration as to whether the PEL ought to be renewed or otherwise. Nevertheless, after consultation with Lock The Gate Hunter Regional Co-ordinator Steve Phillips we decided we weren’t going to let the opportunity pass to at least say what we thought. Anthony Roberts reply copy

Therefore in July of this year I wrote to the Hon. Mr. Anthony Roberts MP, in his role as Minister for Resources and Energy. On Friday last week I received a reply, and so we can now share with the community at large copies of the various correspondence.

To view a copy of the letter sent to the Minister click here: PEL renewal response Hon Minister Roberts-signed

(Please note I have redacted personal details in the letterhead of this scanned copy)

To view a copy of the reply click here: Anthony Roberts reply

(PDF viewer required)

It should be noted that of course the reply from the Minister said very little other than “Thank you” for giving someone in his office at least 5 minutes work. Such is the nature of things and little less than we expected from this exercise. Nevertheless it is important to look for the crumbs of value; and they are twofold:

  1. We have now correlated the fact that PEL#2 is in renewal phase.
  2. We have begun to more widely draw a line in the sand regarding public opinion toward CSG across the Mountain Districts, and the potential impacts to the water, land, lifestyles and existing economic activity throughout.

We will have to wait and see regarding those areas ultimately agreed upon between the NSW Government and AGL for forfeiture. Meanwhile the community surveys are actually very nearly completed and the exercise of entering the hand written data into spreadsheets for collation has begun. The Gasfield Free Mountain committee is also working on plans for declaring the results, and signposting the community’s wishes in an appropriate manner. More on those topics later.

In the short term; don’t forget our Coffee, Cake and CSG meeting on August 23rd, which is really shaping up to be an interesting session. We’re very lucky to have Julie Lyford, the president of Groundswell Gloucester coming along who will talk about the Gloucester blockade, and other resistant activities in Gloucester. Gloucester is on the front line in NSW as a community fighting for their livelihoods against CSG. The outcome of that fight will set precedents that will impact us all.

Scrapping or diluting the Renewable Energy Target hands gas and coal $10B

Research shows power bills would not go down, but the coal and gas industry would reap a huge windfall should the Renewable Energy Target be scrapped, as is proposed by the Abbot government and their top business advisors.

As reported in the Guardian newspaper “Coal and gas generators will reap $10bn in extra profits over the next 15 years if the Abbott government pares back the renewable energy target (RET), and the nation’s electricity bills will not fall, according to new research.

Coal and gas generators have been among the most vocal supporters of reducing the RET, which requires 41,000 gigawatt hours of power to be sourced from renewables by 2020, but the research by Jacobs found reducing the target would also be in those companies’ interest.”

Read the full article here.

SMH: Secret AGL political donations while seeking CSG approval

Peter Hannam

Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“Energy giant supplier AGL gave almost $100,000 to the NSW Labor and Liberal parties while seeking approval to drill 110 coal seam gas wells near Gloucester on the mid-north coast, but only half of those donations were apparently disclosed to the Planning Department making the decision.”

CSG mining and the need for due diligence when purchasing property

Much as been said about the downward pressure CSG mining has on property values. Of course the CSG industry will say “bumf and nonsense” to such statements. Michael Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of AGL is due to retire next year, and he is perhaps feathering his retirement portfolio with a swag of properties the value of which have been enhanced through the installation of a few gas wells, flares, and compressors, a garden feature incorporating a waste-water evaporation pond, a pimp-my-truck styled drill-rig parked in the drive.

Meanwhile, in the real world…

Curtis Associates is, in their own words “(A)n independent and licensed buyers’ agent located in the Sydney CBD which acts exclusively for buyers of residential and commercial properties whether to occupy, develop or as an investment. We are specialist and full time buyers agents free from the distractions of other business activities such as property management and finance brokering. Buying property is simply all we do and we do it well.” Curtis Associates “act as exclusive buyers agent in Sydney and as such, never acts on behalf of sellers of real estate.”

That last piece is very important in understanding what Curtis Assoc. has to say about CSG – because they never represent sellers of real estate they have no self-serving interest in downplaying any depreciative characteristics of CSG mining on property values. Curtis Assoc. charges their clients “a fixed amount in your price bracket and does not increase with every increase in the purchase price.”

Curtis Associates has this to say about Coal Seam Gas mining and property values:

-snip-

“For those looking to buy a house in Sydney or an investment property in Sydney, the issue of CSG mining is a further and increasingly high profile example of the regulatory and environmental risks which can be encountered in the Sydney’s ever changing property market.

Nature of the issue

The issue has both public and private elements.

The public element is now well documented and centres around various environmental, health and safety risks associated with CSG mining especially to aquifers supplying water into the food chain and where the “fracking” extraction method is used.
The private element is of particular interest to existing and prospective property buyers. It centres around the law and other guidelines under which a party becomes entitled to explore for and extract CSG.

-/snip-

Curtis Associates go on to warn that it is difficult for a buyer to know whether a prospective property is subject to a CSG Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) and further that there is currently no law forcing sellers to warn a buyer of PEL coverage. They point to the Minview website as a resource people can use to see the gross coverage of the variously issued PELs across NSW, as do we.


Curtis Associates go on to warn:

-snip-

“(W)hile development consent from a local council or authority may be required before a petroleum title can be granted, property specific searches of such a council or authority will not reveal petroleum titles over other land on which CSG mining might be conducted and which might have subterranean or other environmental effects on the land being searched.

Whilst it is possible to navigate through a series of steps on the DPI website to download an updated list of petroleum titles and applications, the particular difficulty with this type of property risk is that even if pre purchase due diligence uncovers a petroleum title affecting a property of interest, because of the exploratory element inherent in CSG mining and environmental effects that may be unknown (and in contrast for example, to a development consent for a new building), it is difficult to ascertain the future nature and extent of that risk.

-/snip-

We’ve heard it said by property sellers and those representing them that A). CSG won’t come here and anyway if it did my land values would not be downgraded, if anything the fact that I’m getting a royalty for a gaswell on my land is only a good thing. More income means higher values; and B). All this community noise about CSG, the signs along the road about CSG meetings and the articles in the local press are putting off potential buyers.

Clearly Curtis Associates has a lot to say about the validity of point “A”. The best way to retain the value of our land investments is for the community to collectively Lock Our Gates against the gas companies and Say No To CSG.

As to the second point; blaming the presence of signs such as LTG Yellow Triangles and those erected to advise the community about CSG meetings for downward pressure on property values is a case of shooting the messenger. It is like a seller of water blaming the inventor of the microscope for the drop in the value of a glass of water when the microscope finds the water to be teeming with disease causing microbes. The facts of the matter are; we’re covered by AGL’s PELs and that fact, combined with the real possibility that mining could commence have the potential to exert a downward pressure on land values.

Should mining commence, we will almost certainly find our land values decreasing to a significant degree.

The visible presence of community resistance to CSG mining, such as signs, is if anything a fantastic boon for our community and sends a strong message to potential buyers that they are looking at property within a community that has both a backbone and sense of community co-operation toward the common good. The surveys of all the residents of the Mountain Districts are almost complete and collation of the data has begun; we’re on track to declaring Coal Seam Gas unwelcome and unwanted.

PS. Don’t miss the Coffee, Cake and CSG session on the 23rd if you want to understand what happens underground when CSG mining occurs.