MINING giant Santos has taken another significant step forward in its bid to get approval for its proposed $2 billion coal seam gas project in Narrabri.
The company this week submitted a 100-page document to the NSW government outlining “potential environment issues” from gas extraction in the area.
The report, prepared by consultants GHD, is a precursor to the full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be lodged mid-year and assessed by the government.
It claims to list all impacts – “regardless of how unlikely they are to occur” – on areas such as groundwater, Aboriginal heritage, air quality and landscape.
Very broad strategies on how the company will combat those effects are then supplied, with more specific details to be forthcoming in the EIS.
The report reiterates Santos’ assertion that it has “no plans” to use hydraulic fracturing - known as fracking – to extract gas from the underground seams.
However, the company reserves the right to seek additional approvals to frack if “geological data supported the use of the technology in the future”.
The document provides no information on the pipeline that would be used to transport the gas to market, except to say it will be contained in a separate submission to government.
Santos NSW general manager Peter Mitchley expressed confidence the company could mitigate “any environmental impacts identified”.
“Santos understands that benefits generated by the project need to be delivered to the community while minimising any potential impacts,” he said.
“This comprehensive and thorough environmental assessment process will provide a solid foundation against which to measure our performance over the coming years.”
Liverpool Plains farmer Phil Herbert said the document, released late yesterday afternoon, would be pored over by experts in the coming weeks.
“It is only a preliminary environmental assessment and the details are very sketchy,” he said.
“However, in terms of its impact on groundwater, which has always been our main consideration, the way that language is framed doesn’t give us any confidence.”
Mr Herbert’s concerns were echoed by fellow farmer David Quince, who said the document shed little light on exactly how the company intended to overcome the issues raised.
“They don’t provide any map of well pads, or pipelines, or how they’re going to deal with their waste water, which is a huge issue,” he said.
“I think Santos are trying to keep everybody in the dark for as long as possible.”