Protesters tell Santos to hit the pause button

ANTI-coal seam gas activists have followed up on their promise to continue disrupting Santos activities in the Pilliga forest by staging a road blockade at the gates of the energy company’s Leewood wastewater treatment yesterday morning.

GAS FREE: The protesters stopped contractors from entering the site for more than two hours.

GAS FREE: The protesters stopped contractors from entering the site for more than two hours.

About 20 people prevented contractors from entering the site for two and a half hours.

Construction started at the site last week, despite the facility being at the centre of a court battle over the legality of its approval.

Wilalla farmer Alistair Donaldson took part in the protest and said he was “deeply concerned” construction was under way before the outcomes of the court case were determined. “If I was in court about the legality of the development application for my house, do you think I’d be allowed to keep building before the case was determined?” Mr Donaldson said.

“If the court finds that Leewood has not been properly assessed, Santos will have to go back to the drawing board in the assessment process and all the work currently under way will have been completed without  valid approval.

“There’s double standards at play here and Santos should be required to press pause at least until it’s clear its approval is legal.”

Santos general manager of energy NSW, Peter Mitchley, said the protest activity at Leewood had no impact on Santos operations and the company had all approvals in place to undertake the work.

“The Leewood Phase 2 Project was approved following a rigorous and detailed assessment process which was carried out in accordance with the relevant regulatory guidelines.

“Santos worked closely with a number of government departments through this assessment process and all of these government departments are now satisfied with the sustainability and safety of the project.”

Mr Mitchley was confident Santos had strong community support in Narrabri.

“About 85 per cent of the landholders within our proposed project area, which is where we will seek to carry out our operations, have said they are supportive of Santos’ work,” he said.

“It is therefore unfortunate that a few protesters are claiming to speak on behalf of the entire community.”

Mr Donaldson said many farmers on the eastern side of the Pillaga had no surface water left and relied totally on groundwater.

Landholders are already “on the edge” and are afraid any disruption to their groundwater from CSG might push them over that edge.

“As farmers, we are really struggling,” Mr Donaldson said.

“Most of us totally rely on underground water. We fight hard for the water that we do get out here 

and we’ve got nowhere to go if that underground water is compromised.”

The protest follows a similar blockade of Santos’ pilot CSG well in the Pillaga two weeks ago, which prevented contractors from carrying out maintenance work for a number of hours.

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