This morning two people were arrested a peaceful protest against the controversial Santos Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility in the Pilliga bringing the number of arrests over the past three weeks to seven.
Today 44 year-old Gabrielle Laver from Tabulum was arrested and charged with Disobey Directive and Obstruction for delaying a convoy of trucks entering the Leewood site. Police dragged Gabrielle from the road to allow the convoy to proceed. 49 year-old Jason Jol from the Central Coast was arrested and charged with Tresspas on the inside of the facility where he ventured to halt to work on site.
Protesters are vowing to escalate their campaign at the Leewood facility to draw attention to the broader plan for the 850 well Narrabri Gas Project. The Leewood facility is designed to treat up to 1 million litres of toxic CSG wastewater every day from exploratory works in the Pilliga.
Jason Jol describes his motives for protesting this morning. “Santos’ plans for 850 wells in the Pilliga not only threatens the recharge function of the Great Artesian Basin but is also the tip of the iceberg regarding the longer term plans to industrialise North West NSW with coal seam gas.
“People from right across NSW and beyond are now flocking to the Pilliga region to support the Gamilaraay and other local’s efforts to protect their land, water and communities from coal seam gas.
“This is an issue of national significance,” finished Jason.
Protest activity began at the Leewood CSG treatment site in early December when construction of Phase 2 of the facility commenced. Since that time twelve people have risked arrest through locking themselves to gates, vehicles or machinery, and a total of seven people have been arrested and charged.
A 44 year-old women and a 24 year-old man this morning locked on to an excavator inside the controversial Santos Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility near the Pilliga forest in North West NSW. The pair was positioned central to the earth moving works on site and their presence should have triggered Occupational Health and Safety regulations to cease operations of the heavy machinery until members of the public were offsite.
The actions of the pair were part of an escalating community campaign targeting the Leewood facility and its role in the proposed 850 well Santos Narrabri Gas Project.
Ian Sutton from the Central Coast was on site this morning. “The Santos contractors blatantly disregarded OH&S regulations by working only metres away from protestors and to the two people locked on to the excavator. We entered this site to make our statement about the unacceptable risks of the Narrabri Gas Project and this Leewood CSG water irrigation experiment; we’ve gone to such lengths because all other options to address the risks of this project have already been tried.”
“Why are Santos so desperate to roll out this project now? The facility is the subject of a legal challenge by a Narrabri community group that will question the legality of its approval, yet they’re forging forward before the case is heard.”
“As Santos’ share price tumbles to record lows they are clearly desperate to complete the risky and unproven CSG water treatment works at Leewood to the extent that they flaunt regulations and endanger lives to do so.”
Michelle Agius is a 44 year-old graphic artist from Bridgewater, Queensland who locked on today. “I took the action today because I understand the vital significance of the recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin that underlies the Pilliga.”
“Coal seam gas here in the Pilliga puts at risk complex groundwater systems and ecologies. Once these systems are unbalanced we cannot reverse that damage.”
Dylan Sweeney, a 24 year old Brisbane man also locked on today. “I came here to help protect the Pilliga forest and our irreplaceable groundwater resources in unity with people from all walks of life who are opposed to the Narrabri Gas Project.”
“I locked on today to support the Gamilaraay people assert their rights over Country, with their blessing.”
Today’s protest follows the arrest of three ‘Knitting Nannas Against Gas’ at the gates of the facility yesterday and an occupation of the site on Sunday by over 130 people led by Gamilaraay Traditional Custodians. Protests have been ongoing since construction began at Leewood in early December.
Louise Somerville, a 51 year-old Knitting Nanna against Gas from Lismore is currently locked on to the gates of Santos’ Leewood wastewater facility which is part of the company’s plans to develop 850 gas wells in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri in North West NSW.
Louise says: “I’m locked on to this gate to peacefully protest which is my right as an Australian citizen, because I would like to see this country looked after. I have four children who will be here long after I die and I believe we all have a right to clean water air and land.
“Our water is our most precious resource and the Narrabri Gas Project threatens the recharge functions and pressure of our largest aquifer, the Great Artesian Basin.
“I’ve seen the spread and impact of the CSG industry in QLD and I’m determined to do my part to prevent Santos wreaking the same havoc across NSW.
“On my visit to the QLD gasfields I met families with sick children. One of the children’s noses started bleeding while I was there which was a highly distressing sight as a mother,” finished Louise.
Louise is supported today by Cherie Robinson, a dryland farmer from Coonamble Shire on the edge of the Pilliga forest. “I’m happy to stand today with other people who are coming to the area to support this protest. It is a state-wide issue, not just a local one.”
The Leewood facility is designed to treat toxic coal seam gas wastewater from current exploration works of up to 1 million litres each day.
Today’s actions follows a lock on action on Friday which resulted in the arrest and charge of two women in their fifties, and many weeks of daily blockades which have caused ongoing delays and interruptions to Santos’ construction activities.
In the second consecutive day of lock on protests at the site, today two women have locked themselves to the gates of Santos’ controversial Leewood CSG wastewater processing facility in the Pilliga, preventing work for five hours.
Kerri Browne, a 53 year-old postgraduate student from Armidale locked off after the Police declared the would remove the double gates she was attached to at the hinges. She was issued with a court attendance notice and charged with Obstruction and Disobey Police Directive.
Christine Dixon, a 54 year-old bookkeeper from Ebenezer, QLD is currently in custody awaiting bail.
Christine stated: “I’ve seen the impacts of the coal seam gas industry in my state, it damages water, health and communities and leaves a toxic legacy. I cannot conscionabley stand back and watch this industry continually expand without doing my part to help stop it.”
“I’ve got kids and grandkids and I just can’t ignore the impacts I know this industry brings. The community of North West NSW has clearly indicated its opposition to this industry with community surveys showing 96% opposed across 3.2 million hectares.”
Kerri Browne stated: “It’s shocking that the industry could roll out against the wishes of landowners whilst risking our precious groundwater, the biodiversity of the Pilliga forest, and the health of local communities.”
The Leewood facility is designed to treat toxic coal seam gas wastewater from current exploration works of up to 1 million litres each day. The legality of the facilities approval is currently the subject of legal challenge by the NSW EDO and the Narrabri based community group, People for the Plains.
Today’s actions follows a lock on action yesterday which halted all work on site for 6 hours, and many weeks of daily blockades which have caused ongoing delays and interruptions to Santos’ construction activities.
Two Gamilaraay traditional owners from Moree have entered Santos’ property about 25km south of Narrabri and halted construction at the Leewood coal seam gas wastewater treatment plant by locking themselves with a metal pipe to excavating equipment. Fifteen supporters have risked arrest to accompany the men onto the Santos’ property, while another 15 people are demonstrating their support from outside the fence.
There has been a recent resurgence in protest activity against Santos’ works in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri as the company begins construction at Leewood. This large-scale wastewater treatment plant is viewed as a significant milestone in the development of the coal seam gas industry in NSW, and is the subject of a pending court case that will question the legality of its approval.
54 year-old Paul Spearim is a respected Gamilaraay man of notable cultural authority. “Ngiyaningu Maran Yaliwunga Ngarra-li – Our ancestors are always watching.”
“We want Santos to get out of our sacred lands and protect our gali (water).”
Nathan Leslie is a 32 year-old Gamilaraay man; “We’re halting construction at Santos’ Leewood coal seam gas wastewater treatment facility in the Pilliga as this operation is a major step forward for the risky CSG industry and as a Gamilaraay man it is my responsibility to oppose this threat to country.”
“This Leewood facility will result in 500 million tonnes of toxic waste after just 5 years of exploration activity.
“This toxic industry threatens our water, our country and our culture, and Gamiliaraay people say ‘no’ to Santos coal seam gas.”
Two Coonabarabran women have locked themselves by their necks to the gates of two separate Santos’ sites associated with the Narrabri coal seam gas project. The women and approximately 25-30 supporters at each site have interrupted construction at the Leewood wastewater treatment plant and prevented movements in and out of the Operations Centre that houses all the company’s local equipment.
Banners unfurled near the two women state “This Christmas we want a CSG free Pilliga forest” and “This Christmas we want Santos free”.
Michelle Webb, a 52 year-old agricultural teacher and sixth generation farmer is locked on to the gate of the Leewood wastewater treatment plant. “We’ve already seen the impacts to our groundwater from Santos’ exploration activities. You cannot have the coal seam gas industry and respect our precious water resources – you just cannot have both. The risks of the coal seam gas industry are simply unacceptable.”
“This is not how I’d choose to spend my morning four days before Christmas, but it’s urgent that we stop the threat of coal seam gas before it takes over like it has in Queensland.”
Nicole Hunter is a 44 year-old Coonabarabran mother and small business owner. “I’m determined to do all I can to protect the future of this region and our planet for my three young daughters.”
“The Narrabri Gas Project is proposed for the recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin. If we depressurize or contaminate this resource there’s not turning back.
“The most important gift I can ever give my children is a healthy and sustainable future.”
At 7am this morning a group of 50 farmers, their families and supporters has blockaded the access road for Santos’ Leewood CSG wastewater treatment facility near the Pilliga forest with nearly six tonnes of hay bales formed into a 6 foot high wall. The farmers are playing poker atop the hay-bale blockade whilst beneath them is unfurled a banner stating “Santos: Stop Gambling with our Farming Future”. The blockade has stopped construction of Phase 2 of the Leewood project at the site this morning.
Josh Borowski is a farmer from Coonamble and one of the protest participants. “We simply cannot accept this game of Russian roulette Santos is playing with our groundwater. Coal seam gas jeopordises our future as farmers on the land and we are determined to stop Santos and protect our sustainable farming livelihoods.”
“We are utterly opposed to the Santos Narrabri Gas Project proposal in the Pilliga forest and we’re here today blockading construction of Phase 2 of the Leewood wastewater facility as this project is a major and fundamental component of the Narrabri gasfield it’s planning.”
Stephanie Borowski is Josh’s wife and is at the protest with their 1 year-old baby. “We have reluctantly left our farms to take this action today, but we refuse to stand by as this toxic industry rolls out to pollute our environment and contaminate our clean groundwater. We utterly rely on groundwater on our farm – a risk to groundwater is a risk to our future. What legacy are we leaving our children and future generations?”
Josh Borowski continued: “Santos is constructing its Leewood wastewater treatment plant that will accept over 1 million litres of toxic CSG wastewater every day, before it has even announced what it will do with the 500 million litres of concentrated salty brine that will be left over at the end of the 5 year exploration project.”
“We’re also appalled that Santos does not have enough respect for the local community to wait for the outcomes of a pending court case that will determine the legality of the Leewood facilities’ approval before it begins construction there.”
Narrabri group People for the Plains has filed legal action against Santos and the NSW Department of Resources and Energy (DRE) for the approval of the “Leewood” CSG wastewater treatment facility, as part of the Narrabri Gas Project Exploration in the Pilliga forest. The group will be represented by public interest environmental law centre EDO NSW.
People for the Plains will argue that the approval of Phase 2 of the “Leewood Produced Water Treatment and Beneficial Reuse Project” on 18 August is invalid as the facility not ancillary to petroleum exploration. CSG explorations works are exempt from requiring development consent under NSW planning law.
Santos was granted approval for its Leewood facility despite its failure to provide details of its waste disposal plan that was repeatedly requested by the EPA. There will be 500 million litres of concentrated salty brine left at the end of this five-year exploration project.
Local community members blockaded Santos’ coal seam gas activities in the Pilliga forest for over 22 hours with the arrival of Police ending the standoff at approximately 9am. Santos recently resumed work in the Pilliga, after a period of approximately 12 months without any significant activities. The local community has been quick to respond.
Mark Robinson is a farmer from Coonamble who was arrested when he locked himself to the gate of a drill rig compound early in 2014. “We’ve had a reprieve as Santos has not been actively engaged in any work in the Pilliga for some time. Now, unfortunately Santos is again progressing its plans for the Narrabri Gas Project, the largest CSG proposal in NSW and we’ve again been forced to take decisive action.”
“Our group peacefully blockaded Santos’ activities for over 22 hours.”
“Santos needs to be reminded that there are many local people determined, and willing to go to great lengths like this, to protect their groundwater and communities from plans for risky coal seam gasfields.”
“Across the North West region local communities have surveyed 3.2million ha. finding 96% do not support CSG in their area. Santos has said they will not go where they’re not welcome so it should pack up and get out of North West NSW.”
“Santos faces record low share prices and unpaid tax debts. The Narrabri Gas Project has brought Santos nothing but a bad name and more debt. We’re here to remind Santos its plans for the Narrabri Gas Project will be met with increasing local opposition if they push on.”
A group of 15 local community members has staged a road blockade at the gates of Santos’ ‘Leewood’ coal seam gas wastewater treatment and irrigation scheme in the Pilliga, preventing contractors from entering the site, about 25km south of Narrabri. The group argues that Leewood construction should be halted until the outcomes of a court case against the legality of its approval have been handed down and Santos answers basic questions about how it will dispose of 500 million litres of salty brine waste.
Wilalla farmer Alistair Donaldson is participating in the blockade this morning. “We are deeply concerned that the construction of this huge CSG wastewater processing plant is underway before the outcomes of the court case against the legality of approval is heard or determined.”
“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 underway will have been completed without a valid approval.”
“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? There’s double standards at play here and Santos should be required to press pause at least until its clear its approval is legal.”
“The project’s construction should also be halted due to the absence of a solution for 500 million litres of concentrated salty brine waste that will be left at the end of the 5 year exploration project. Local people should not have to accept this toxic salty legacy for which Santos absolutely no disposal plan.”
Santos has flouted the Environmental Protection Agencies repeated requests for details of the ‘lawful disposal of the brine’. It is clear Santos do not have a solution as it has deferred a plan saying it will ‘commit to within two years to lodge a plan’.