Decision on $3.6bn Narrabri coal seam gas development delayed after late submission from Santos

2020-08-14 | Since 1 Month

The Australia Institute’s Mark Ogge says Santos completely rewrote the case for its Narrabri coal gas seam project after hearings had closed: ‘It smacks of desperation.

A decision on a controversial coal seam gas development at Narrabri, in north-west New South Wales, has been delayed after the company behind it lodged a last-minute submission suggesting it will have greater economic benefits than previously claimed.

The state independent planning commission announced on Friday it would reopen public comments on the $3.6bn project, proposed by the oil and gas company Santos, and push back a decision by four weeks, until 30 September.

It follows Santos lodging a submission on Monday that included new modelling suggesting gas could be produced more cheaply at the site than had been estimated, the project would reduce gas prices in the state, and the economic and employment benefits would be greater than previously thought.

In hearings last month, the commission heard evidence from hundreds of people and groups, most of them opposed. Objections included that it would damage the local environment, affect biodiversity in the Pilliga forest and lead to substantial greenhouse gas emissions at odds with Australia’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

The project would involve up to 850 coal seam gas wells being drilled on 1,000 hectares of a 95,000 hectare site that includes Pilliga forest and nearby grazing land. Santos says it could provide up to 200 terajoules of gas a day for domestic use for 20 years, equivalent to 50% of NSW demand.

The project has strong government backing. It has been formally supported by the NSW Coalition, and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, listed it as one of 15 projects of national significance, promising an accelerated assessment under federal environment laws. The energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, has suggested it will help bring down gas prices.

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