Category: Releases

Koala Surveys within PEL 238

KOALA SURVEY WITHIN PEL 238, October/November 2016 and assessment of significance of impact:

Ethical Ecology was engaged by Lock the Gate to undertake a review of data concerning the current status of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) within the PEL 238 (Santos), to conduct a survey within the PEL 238 and to undertake an assessment of the significance of impact from the proposed Narrabri Project production field would have on the koala.

Currently, the existing gas infrastructure is restricted to privately held land and state forest, though Pilliga East State Conservation Area is located to the south of the current project area on the eastern side of the Newell Highway and the Pilliga National Park is located to the west of the PEL.

The project area covers a substantial area of known koala habitat and the koala was identified by the Commonwealth as Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) affected by the Narrabri Project in their Referral Decision (EPBC 2103/6918). In addition, the Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) ‘Yellow Box – White Box – Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland and Derived Grassland’, preferred Koala habitat, found in the project area, was also identified as another reason the referral was ‘called in’. Of note is that neither was identified in the Referral by Santos as being MNES affected by their action.

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PILLIGA EAST STATE FOREST KOALA SURVEY Prepared by OWAD Environment for Western Woodlands Alliance

OWAD Environment was engaged by Western Woodlands Alliance (WWA) to conduct a one-day survey of Koala Phascolarctos cinereus in Pilliga East State Forest, New South Wales, using Taz the professional Koala scat detection dog. The purpose of this study was to gain an initial understanding of current presence/absence of Koalas across the areas assessed, based on presence/absence of the marsupial’s characteristic scats (faecal pellets). This report presents the findings of this study.

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Santos desperately tries to recoup $1 billion loss on trouble-plagued Narrabri CSG project by lodging EIS


  • Santos planned to drill 850 CSG wells through recharge aquifers of Great Artesian Basin.
  • Narrabri scheme has caused much damage, including contaminating aquifer with uranium.
  • Protests will continue until NSW Government ends state’s last standing CSG proposal.

Gas fracking giant Santos has lodged its application to drill coal seam gas production wells in the Pilliga Forest and neighbouring productive farmland, with almost 1000 wells originally planned, in a desperate attempt to recoup the $1 billion it has lost on the trouble-plagued Narrabri CSG scheme.

Santos has already hived off the Narrabri scheme with other assets to offload to try to repay its massive $4.5 billion debt, including the $1 billion it has lost on the Narrabri folly.

Santos is hoping an approved Environmental Impact Statement will make the project more attractive to prospective buyers who would be very wary considering the environmental damage the project has already caused as well as the huge protests against coal seam gas in Narrabri and all across NSW.

The Narrabri scheme is the last coal seam gas proposal left in the state after the NSW Government terminated Metgasco’s leases on the Far North Coast and AGL surrendered its licence at Gloucester on the Mid North Coast.

“Santos wants approval to drill nearly coal seam gas production wells in the Pilliga Forest and the surrounding productive Narrabri farmland, with almost 1000 wells originally planned,” said Wilderness Society Newcastle Campaign Manager Naomi Hodgson. “Santos has a long tragic history of failure in the Pilliga, with at least 20 toxic coal seam gas waste water spills, including the contamination of an aquifer with uranium and other toxic heavy metals. Those spills came from just 20 wells and Santos now wants approval to drill hundreds of CSG wells through the recharge aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin, an essential water source for Outback Australia. “We should not be risking our precious water resources and the Great Artesian Basin on a toxic project that Santos has deemed worthless and wants to offload. “The Narrabri coal seam gas scheme has been dogged by protests by farmers, townspeople, Traditional Owners and environmentalists for years now and they will continue to fight this project. An overwhelming 96 per cent of landholders representing 3.2 million hectares of land that Santos holds leases over have declared themselves gasfield free.

“It’s untenable that the locals have been stuffed for years by Santos and the state government. It’s about time the National Party stood up for the farmers of north-west NSW and pressure its coalition colleagues to listen to the people and terminate the hated remaining CSG scheme in the state. “The Narrabri coal seam gas scheme will do nothing to ease gas prices in NSW as gas is piped to Queensland for export at much higher prices.”

Santos has now lost more than $1 billion on a project it bought for $924 million just four years ago. The $588 million impairment effectively writes off the Narrabri coal seam gas project, which was valued at $543 million last year after an $808 million writedown. Santos also downgraded the Gunnedah gas reserves from proven to contingent.

The Pilliga is our last great inland forest, home to many endangered and threatened species including the koala, Pilliga mouse, black-striped wallaby and spotted-tail quoll.

The Pilliga is a major recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin, an essential water source for Outback Australia, and is also part of the Murray Darling basin, Australia’s biggest and most important food bowl, and a major recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin

Winter Hibernation

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A successful Pilliga Push is closing for this round of the long-term campaign against Santos’ 850 well Narrabri CSG proposal for the Pilliga – the very last CSG proposal left in NSW.
Big thanks to every single person who took action, donated, visited camp, liked and shared our posts. A huge thanks to Pilliga Pottery for hosting us on their property. 
We brought state and national attention to this dangerous project. We targeted the construction of Santos’ toxic Leewood CSG wastewater treatment plant and our actions showed that all CSG work in the Pilliga will be peacefully interrupted and effectively delayed. Leewood was scheduled to take three months to construct – it has taken closer to six months, Santos are not yet finished commissioning and have been plagued by problems.
There have been 39 total lock ons and 43 people arrested or charged, multiple fines and many hundreds participated. 
Now construction at Leewood is close to finished the camp will go into winter hibernation. The Pilliga Push camp in its current form is closing down but we’re not going away, just as Santos is not going away. A nearby presence will remain to help locals monitor Santos’ activities and compliance.  Over coming months Santos may go ahead installing an irrigation system to begin its dangerous CSG waste water irrigation experiment at Leewood. 
If there is an appropriate time for action we will put the call out, and we hope you will come – whether that be in one month or twelve. Text 0499 384 557 with your location to be added to the alert list. 
Pilliga Push strengthened the CSG movement in NSW and broadened its commitment to include the precious Pilliga forest. When the time comes for further action we will again show our strength by an immediate response from our diverse and peaceful movement. 

Two traditional owners lock to machinery at Santos Leewood CSG site in the Pilliga

  • Lock on follows action of 300 people at the Leewood CSG site yesterday

  • Total charged at Santos Pilliga protests in the last 6 weeks is now at 29

  • These protests come days after Santos wrote off the value of the project

Two men are risking arrest as part of a relentless community campaign against Santos’ coal seam gas project in the Pilliga forest in North West NSW. One of the men is a Gamilaraaly traditional owner of the Pilliga and the other man is a traditional owner of Yuin country on the South Coast. At the same time around 20 people have blocked access to the main access road into the site.

The community is calling on the State Government to cancel all CSG exploration licences across the North West region.

Paul Spearim is a 54 year old Gamilaraay man who is currently locked on: “It’s about the protection of my traditional connection to Biliga and the Gamilaraay nation.PP-Paul-Lionel-lockon-22-02-2016

“With Santos coal seam gas its about the destruction of our Gali (water). We have an obligation to protect the waterways and aquifers of the Gamilaraay nation. We have ancient cultural knowledge of the groundwater aquifers, including the Great Artesian Basin and the seven rivers that lie beneth.”

Lyle Davis/Andy (Brierley/Biety) is a 58 year old Yuin man also locked on: “I’m up here, black duck from Moruyo, supporting the emu, Gamilaraay, because we’ve got the same issues and problems in my Yuin country. The elders keep saying ‘leave it in the ground’ and it’s the same issues across the land – the pilliaging and plundering of our natural resources – and we do not see any benefits.”

Paul Spearim ended: “Hopefully more Gamilaraay people, other first nations people and other supporters will join our efforts to protect Gamilaraay sacred lands.”

Yesterday over 300 people defied a police road block to rally at the gates of the Leewood facility and around 80 people breached the fence to occupy the construction site. One man was arrested.

 

Huge community rally protests Santos’ CSG operation in the Pilliga calling on the company to withdraw

Over 300 people have defied a police roadblock to protest the construction of Santos’ controversial coal seam gas waste water treatment facility. The protest is calling on Santos to pull out of unconventional gas in North West NSW two days after Santos wrote down its assets in the region to zero.

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On Friday, Santos released its full year results, announcing a $2.7 billion loss and writing down its Gunnedah Basin assets to zero. Santos also reclassified its Gunnedah Basin reserves from ‘probable’ to ‘contingent.’

Three hundred people have this morning gathered to protest at Santos’ construction site in the Pilliga, calling on the company to pull out of their unconventional gas projects in the region.

Sally Hunter from Harparary is at the protest and said, “The gas beneath us is now worth nothing to Santos, but for all of us, the Pilliga, the farmland of the North West and the groundwater of the Great Artesian Basin are priceless.

“We’ve got businesses, farms and lives to live out here. We’re here today to tell Santos to do the right thing by the community and withdraw from all unconventional gas in the New South Wales North West.”

David Quince, a farmer from the Liverpool Plains, said, “With Santos posting a $2.7 billion loss last year, the business case for unconventional gas in eastern Australia is looking as risky and dangerous as its environmental and social impacts.”

The construction of Santos’ Leewood coal seam gas waste water treatment facility has been plagued by protests for the last eight weeks, with local farmers and Traditional Owners joined by people from as far afield as Adelaide and North Queensland to support the protests.

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A local community group, People for the Plains is current taking court action against the Government’s approval of the facility under gas exploration regulation on the grounds that it should have required a full environmental assessment and development consent. But neither Santos nor the Government has taken any action to halt construction until the case is heard in April.

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NSW Nurses and Midwives Association supports Pilliga CSG protest

Today in the Pilliga a contingent of health care workers are peacefully protesting Santos’ 850 well Narrabri Gas Project proposal and the current construction of the Leewood CSG wastewater facility.

Nurses and midwives at the protest are joined and supported by the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association. In 2014 the NSWNMA passed a resolution to support the actions of members protesting this dangerous industry in their pursuit of health for all. The protesters call on the NSW Government to ban all CSG activity in NSW.

Nurses and midwives at the site say as health carers they felt a responsibility to stand up for the health of the environment as its direct human health impacts. They are concerned about the impacts to the Great Artesian Basin, the release of toxins and known carcinogens into the environment, the harm to communities created by gas companies who cause conflict and division, the health risks to workers and the social impact on their families, the impact on farming and food production and the long term risks to the health of future generations.

Union delegate Angie Gittus from Murwillumbah says, “It’s our obligation as health care workers to protect health and prevent harm and as health carers we feel a responsibility to address climate change which we know to be the biggest public health risk we are facing. “

Heather Dunn is a midwife at Lismore Base Hospital and also a union delegate. “As a midwife and a mother I am here to stand up to protect today’s children and those yet to be born. Studies show that the risks to small and unborn children from CSG are far greater than the risks to adults.

“With mounting evidence on the impacts of CSG on human health it is becoming clear that this industry must be halted in NSW before it gains a foothold.

“Peaceful protest is increasing in the Pilliga as the nation becomes aware of the many different impacts this industry will have on human life. Health is just one of those impacts” finished Heather.

On Tuesday five women aged between 50 and 75 were arrested whilst dressed as ‘climate angels’ at the Santos Leewood site. These arrests bring the total number of protestors charged at the site to 27 over the past month.

Five ‘Climate Angels’ arrested at Santos’ Leewood plant in Pilliga

Today five middle aged and elderly women dressed as “Climate Guardian Angels” were dragged away and arrested whilst blocking the road into Santos’ Leewood CSG wastewater treatment plant. They’ve taken this action as part of the escalating campaign against Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga.

PP Angel arrest2The Angels blocked access to the Santos Leewood facility and interrupted construction works there by standing together and holding red fabric across the road. The group also attended the Paris Climate Talks in December 2015 where they led a march holding the red line of fabric.

Great grandmother June Norman from Brisbane is one of the heavenly host that graced the frontline with their presence today. “The red line we held today symbolises a boundary that cannot be crossed, a planetary boundary, a climatic boundary. The red line symbolises the urgency of keeping fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic warming.

“We have held the red line at the Pilliga frontline to symbolise the end of coal seam gas in NSW.PP Angel arrest1

“I am a great grandmother who is concerned about the future and what I am leaving or my grandchildren. Australia is a beautiful, safe country that I have enjoyed. It is my duty to do whatever I can to protect it for future generations. If it takes civil disobedience to protect our natural world then this is what I am prepared to do.”

The opposition to the Santos Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga is escalating with 24 arrested, a total of 27 people charged, and numerous infringements. In addition another 11 people have risked arrest through locking on to machinery or gates but have avoided charges.

Since AGL’s announcement last Thursday that it’s abandoning its Gloucester Gas Field and its expansion at Camden, Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project is the last remaining CSG proposal in NSW and is the central target for anti-CSG protestors in NSW.PP Angel arrest3

Leewood CSG plant is the subject of a legal challenge regarding the legality of its approval. Narrabri group People for the Plains and the EDO will argue its assessment should require public consultation and an EIS. The case is set for hearing on the 6th and 8th April.

The five women aged between 50 and 75 are currently in custody at the Narrabri Police Station.

Pilliga protest continues: sixth generation local farmer blocks Santos’ CSG work site

  • Farmers call for Government to suspend Santos’ operations while court case is heard

  • Protests resume after pepper spray incident

A 73 year-old sixth generation farmer from the Coonamble area has this morning become the latest person to block access to the construction site of Santos’ Leewood CSG waste water facility in the Pilliga forest in North West NSW.

Neil Kennedy lock-on 03-02-2016 with Ann

Neil Kennedy has locked himself by the neck to the front gate of the construction site, and is joined this morning by local and regional supporters.
Mr Kennedy said, “I don’t think it’s right that Santos can build this waste water treatment plant, with all the risks involved, while a court case is still underway to sort out whether its approval without a proper environmental assessment was lawful or not.

“The fact that Santos is pushing on with construction while the Leewood facility’s approval is the subject of a pending court case suggests the company is overly confident of an ultimate approval. Why can’t they wait for due process before they press on in the face of so much opposition and legal uncertainty?”

“I’m willing to risk getting arrested here today because the Government and Santos don’t seem to respect how high the stakes are for us out here when it comes to groundwater. If an old farmer is chaining himself to someone else’s gate, maybe that will show them how much our artesian water means to us, and how seriously we will fight to protect it, if the Government won’t.

Neil Kennedy lock-on 03-02-2016 with othersSarah Ciesiolka, a potato and peanut farmer from Wee Waa joined Mr Kennedy at the protest today. Ms Ciesiolka said, “Our local community group has challenged the legality of the Government’s approval for this waste water plant, which will process up to a million litres a day of CSG water, produce huge volumes of brine that will need to be disposed of somehow, and conduct an experimental irrigation program.

“With all the spills and problems that coal seam gas has already had here in the Pilliga, we expected the Government to be on the public’s side and require Santos to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for a risky and large scale development like this. It’s not too much to ask for them to stop work while our court case is heard. We will keep protesting until the Government asks Santos to stop work here.”

The past month has seen 16 people arrested at protests at Leewood and hundreds of people participating. Yesterday a grandmother from South Australia was pepper sprayed whilst vulnerable and locked on to machinery at the site.

A directions hearing for the People for the Plains court challenge to the approval of the Leewood facility will be held at the Land and Environment Court in Macquarie Street, Sydney, on Friday

Protests halt Santos’ Pilliga CSG operation again

  • New CEO Kevin Gallagher faces community push on first day

  • Two women from Santos’ home state risk arrest and halt work

Two women from gas company Santos’ home state of South Australia have locked onto an excavtor and halted all construction work at the company’s controversial Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility in North West NSW, on the first day at work for the company’s new CEO, Kevin Gallagher.Kerri Tonkin & Cyd Fenwick lock-on 1-2-2016

The women have taken action as part of a growing community campaign against the Leewood facility and the broader Narrabri Gas Project in North West NSW. Over the past month, 14 people have been arrested as part of the protests, with hundreds taking part.

Cyd Fenwick, 46 from the Adelaide Hills, said, “We grew up with the idea that Santos is a great South Australian company, but out here in the Pilliga, they’re damaging the Australia and their reputation, and they’ve got to be stopped.

“We want the new CEO of Santos, Kevin Gallagher to know that the Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga will be opposed at every turn. The project is a liability and Santos should cut its losses and get out before it loses out further.”

Kerri Tonkin, 47 from the Eyre Peninsula, said “I’m here for the water, this is not just a local issue, it affects us all. This 850 well coal seam gas project threatens the recharge function of the Great Artesian Basin and is an issue of national significance.”

“Santos is doing serious damage to its reputation by persisting with this trouble plagued project in the Pilliga. The project has a terrible environmental record and no social license with the community.”

The Leewood CSG facility is designed to treat up to 1 million litres of toxic CSG water per day and to irrigate crops on site with the treated waste. Already there have been over 20 spills and leaks of toxic CSG water during exploration alone.

The Leewood facility is the subject of a court case by local group People for the Plains that will question the legality of its approval and argue its assessment should involve a full Environmental Impact Statement and public consultation. A directions hearing will be held on Friday in Sydney.

Environment Minister’s cousin blocks access to Santos construction work, appeals for rejection of Narrabri CSG project

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s first cousin has taken the extraordinary action of suspending herself twelve metres in the air to block access to construction vehicles and interrupt work at Santos’ controversial Leewood coal seam gas wastewater plant in the Pilliga, North West NSW.

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Jen Hunt is a 51 year-old retired social worker, a mother of two and step-mother of six. She is the latest of a series of people that have taken peaceful direct action and risked arrest to stop the controversial project over the last two months. She wants to send a message to her cousin about the need to protect the Great Artesian Basin, so has suspended on from a platform hanging from tree to halt Santos’ construction work.

“Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga is an issue of national significance. Santos’ plans to drill 850 coal seam gas wells straight through a critical recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin, threatening this vital water source for communities, agriculture and ecosystems across 22% of inland Australia.”

“I’m up this tree today to call on my cousin Greg Hunt to use his powers under the Federal EPBC Act to reject Santos’ application for the Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga for its unacceptable risks to our precious groundwater resources.”

“With love, I’m asking my cousin to start putting the people before the polluters. We do not need this expensive gas which is destined for export, we certainly don’t need it at risk of destroying one of the most critical water resources we have in Australia.”

Jen Hunt-treesit-cherrypicker-25-01-2016The Leewood wastewater treatment facility targeted today is the subject of a court case by local group “People for the Plains”. The group will argue the facility should require a separate assessment process including an Environmental Impact Statement and a public consultation period. Leewood is designed to treat up to 1 million litres of csg wastewater from exploratory works in the Pilliga. Protestors are targeting this facility for its inherent risks and its significance to the ongoing development of the Narrabri Gas Project.

The Narrabri Gas Project has been ‘called in’ under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act for its risk to water resources, and is therefore within Greg Hunt’s scope of influence.

Jen is joined today by 20 supporters including two ‘climate angels’ who are part of an international theatrical movement for peaceful climate action. In the past two weeks ten people have been charged for involvement in protests at the Leewood site.