Farmers wary of Santos ‘no drilling Liverpool Plains’ claim

FARMERS are wary of Santos’ claims it won’t mine the Liverpool Plains for coal seam gas, given the company refuses to give up the petroleum exploration licence covering the area.

Santos has stated it has no intention of drilling the Liverpool Plains and will shut its Gunnedah office in September.

Farmers have called on the gas giant to put its money where its mouth is, and relinquish its claim to the Petroleum Exploration Licence 1 (PEL1), which covers the plains.

The licence is currently expired, however as Santos has lodged a renewal application, the licence will continue until a determination is made by the NSW government or the company withdraws its request.

The Leader asked Santos if it would withdraw its application to renew PEL1 given it no longer intend to mine the region, however the company refused to answer, instead pointing to a statement by CEO Kevin Gallagher from earlier this year (see the correspondence below). 

“The fact that the permit area we have covers the Liverpool Plains is just something we have to live with. We can’t cut it off, it’s there, but our plans are to the north of that,” Mr Gallagher said in May.

Quirindi farmer Peter Wills said he “absolutely does not trust” Santos, and said farmers would no grow complacent in the company’s absences.

“Until they give up the PEL, this is not over,” Mr Wills said.

“You say you’re not going to mine, then give back the licence.

“This is all froth and bubble – like that of a gas well – because they’re just leaving town for the moment.”

Caroona farmer and president of SOS Liverpool Plains Kirrily Blomfield echoed Mr Wills’ thoughts.

“We’re calling on Santos to withdraw its application – and on the state government to cancel the licence, which is already expired,” Mrs Blomfield said. 

“That’s the only way to provide certainty for the community and the region.”

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Correspondence with Santos

Just a follow up question, which I don't need a response to today – given Santos has closed the Gunnedah office and stated it has no plans to drill the Liverpool Plains, why won't it withdraw its application to renew the licence to PEL1? 

I know Mr Gallegaher said:

“The fact that the permit area we have covers the Liverpool Plains is just something we have to live with. We can’t cut it off, it’s there, but our plans are to the north of that.”

But the NSW government says the company has the option of cancelling its renewal application.

From the NSW Department of Planning:

“In accordance with Section 20 of the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, if an application for the renewal of a title was lodged prior to the expiry date of the title, then the title continues to be in force until the renewal application is withdrawn, or a determination is made on the application.”

If you could please get back to me with a response by midday tomorrow, that would be most appreciated. 

Santos spokesperson

“In response to your follow up question, Kevin Gallagher’s statement from the earlier this year, as you quoted below, still stands.”

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