Agreement ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’

PROMINENT anti-coal seam gas campaigner Penny Blatchford has dismissed a land access agreement between coal seam gas companies and farming groups as “not worth the paper it’s printed on”.

Mrs Blatchford, a board member of both the Local Land Services North West and Lock the Gate, said the document – trumpeted as a “landmark agreement” by the parties recently - provided no comfort for landholders.

The agreement provides a landholder “is at liberty to say yes or no to the conduct of operations on their land” and that “gas companies confirm that they will respect the landholder’s wishes” and not conduct operations on property where they are unwelcome.

It was signed at Parliament House in Sydney late last month by representatives from Santos, AGL Energy, NSW Farmers Association, Cotton Australia and NSW Irrigators Council.

Mrs Blatchford said the government, if it was truly committed to empowering farmers, it should amend the Petroleum (Onshore) Act.

“If the NSW government supports farmers having the right to say yes or no, then it needs to be enshrined in legislation,” she said.

“I’ve been lobbying for amendments and im- provements to be made to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act because I want the future of farming to be secure, but this is not a legal document – it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

But Barwon MP Kevin Humphries said the agreement meant landholders could “now deal with these companies with confidence and comfort”.

“It is an agreement based on the values of respect, integrity and trust,” he said.

“I applaud the landholder representatives for their leadership and commitment to their communities.

“As I have consistently said, we are listening to the community’s concerns and will continue to work to ensure we have the best and strictest regulations in place for the CSG industry.”

Mrs Blatchford, who is vehemently opposed to Santos’ proposed $2 billion coal seam gas project in the Pilliga, said Mr Humphries’ interpretation of the document’s significance could not be further from the truth.

“Santos is a public company and they could easily sell to someone else tomorrow who might not hold the same values and in 10 years’ time that piece of paper will be just signed by five people we’ve never heard of,” she said.

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