Threat to block coal seam gas drill sites

Public meeting called by Planning Assessment Commission on coal seam gas application.Picture James Alcock
Public meeting called by Planning Assessment Commission on coal seam gas application.Picture James Alcock

A PLANNING Assessment Commission panel was told yesterday that protesters would blockade drilling sites if it approved an extension of time for a coal seam gas project on Sydney's southern fringe.

More than 130 people crowded into Helensburgh Workers Sports and Social Club's auditorium for the start of a public meeting on Apex Energy's application for more time to explore an area that includes the Woronora drinking catchment.

Representatives of 12 organisations, and 20 people making individual submissions, were listed to speak.

The commission panel, chaired by former Roads and Traffic Authority chief executive Paul Forward, will decide the fate of the application, which the Department of Planning and Infrastructure recommended should continue.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokeswoman Jess Moore told the meeting there was an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence, and increasing scientific evidence, about the health risks associated with coal seam gas exploration and mining.

Alternative, industry-funded research findings were "like big tobacco and James Hardy saying it's safe," she said.

Ms Moore said it would be irresponsible for the commission to approve the extension, but if it did, the project "will not, cannot go ahead".

"We will blockade if the drilling comes into our area," she said.

"This community is in the appalling situation where we will have to fight our own government to protect our drinking water."

Wollongong City Council also called for the application to be rejected.

Renee Campbell, the council's manager, environmental strategy and planning, said concerns about coal seam gas had increased greatly since the original application was approved in 2009.

A new application would require a new environmental assessment, which would take into account more up to date information.

The meeting was due to hear from Tom Fontaine, a director of Magnum Gas & Power, which is in a joint venture with Apex Energy.

Heathcote MP Lee Evans was another listed to speak.

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