Fullerton Cove residents fear health impacts

Fullerton Cove residents have echoed the concern raised by the NSW Health Department regarding the potential risks to human health from coal seam gas wells just hundreds of meters away. The residents are waiting for a court outcome to determine whether Dart Energy will be allowed to drill in Fullerton Cove just a few hundred meters away from a number of residential properties.

Dart Energy the proponent were only required to complete a Review of the Environmental Factors rather than a full Environmental Impacts Assessment. The REF did not assess the potential health impacts of the proposal.

“There is evidence of major health impacts from CSG. In Queensland, residents near CSG projects have suffered nose bleeds and skin rashes, and other symptoms. Surely, we deserve a study on the health impacts of CSG. We need some answers.”

Lindsay Clout of the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group stated “Everyone in Fullerton Cove relies on the local groundwater for our domestic use. If Dart are allowed in Fullerton Cove, they would be drilling so close to us that we have huge fears about our water being contaminated. There has been no assessment of these risks, and no guarantee it won’t happen.”

“What would happen to our air quality? There is strong evidence in Queensland of major methane leakage from CSG mines. During westerly winds we would be directly downwind of flared gas wells.”

“The NSW Government needs to freeze on this proposal until the comprehensive health study recommended by NSW Health is completed. There is just too much at stake.”

For further comment or interview please contact: Lindsay Clout, Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group, 0437 300 377.

Dart Energy gets packed reception at Newcastle Council meeting, now community to present on coal seam gas impacts

Concerned residents packed Newcastle City Chambers last night and faced a heavy police presence at a meeting where coal seam gas drillers Dart Energy presented their case to Newcastle City Council.

“Tonight’s Newcastle Council meeting saw a shaky performance by coal seam gas drillers Dart Energy, under the pressure of local community members who filled the council chambers to show their concern,” said Naomi Hogan of the Wilderness Society Newcastle.

“Dart Energy gave unclear responses and avoided answering simple questions about the risks to our water supply, earthquake shocks and well casing.”

“The site where Dart wants to begin drilling is only 500 metres from our internationally listed Ramsar wetlands – a place that should be protected from becoming a polluting industrial gas field.”

“Coal seam gas drilling in NSW and in the Pilliga Forest has shown to pollute waterways, spill toxic wastewater, kill vegetation and drown native animals.”

“Coal seam gas industrialisation is not a vision shared by the Newcastle and Fullerton Cove communities.”

“The heavy police presence at the meeting is a clear indication that Dart does not have a social licence to operate here.”

“Dart spruiked their community consultation, yet failed to mention they set the riot squad on local Fullerton Cove residents when peacefully protesting earlier this year.”

“On the one hand Dart said 72 wells have been sunk in Fullerton Cove since 1989, but on the other hand they said they have no information and need to drill to find out about gas supply, water quality and if there will be any impacts.”

“The Newcastle community doesn’t want Dart Energy experimenting with our water supply. Dart’s drill now and figure out the answers later approach will not fly in our community and is not appropriate for our internationally listed wetlands,” she said.

In response to a question by Councillor Nuatali Nelmes about environmental impact studies and subsidence, Dart said, “We haven’t done any extra studies”.

After questioning by Councillor Therese Doyle, Dart could not guarantee the gas drilling in Fullerton Cove would not impact on water.

Immediately following the Dart Energy presentation and question time, council voted unanimously to support a motion put forward by Councillor Osborne for an alternate presentation to hear from the local impacted communities and members of the Lock the Gate Alliance.

Dart Energy cannot drill currently at the Fullerton Cove site, as they are still awaiting the determination of a court case challenging the state approval for the project.

For more information: Naomi Hogan, The Wilderness Society Newcastle, 0401 650 411

Dart Unsuccessful in Bid to Have Expert Evidence Excluded from CSG Legal Challenge

  • Court resumes at 9:30am today for the final day of the coal seam gas case
  • Objections from Dart Energy’s legal team to any evidence going before the court have been rejected

Residents from Fullerton Cove attending the second day of the court hearing that challenges the legality of the Dart Energy coal seam gas project in Fullerton Cove were told that the objections from Dart Energy’s legal team to any evidence going before the court were rejected and the court would hear from their two expert witnesses.

The court heard evidence from the experts on the adequacy of the groundwater assessment. The court challenge will determine whether Dart Energy will be required to undergo further environmental assessments for the Fullerton Cove coal seam gas proposal.

Earlier this year the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group won an injunction to prevent any drilling from occurring on site until the outcome of court case.

This week, dozens of Fullerton Cove residents have attended the court hearings at the Land and Environment court in Sydney, watching with interest the proceedings that are to decide whether Dart Energy will be required to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Justin Hamilton of the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group said, “This court challenge came about because residents are concerned that the impacts of drilling for coal seam gas in Fullerton Cove are still unknown and have the potential to cause irreversible damage”.

“The Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group would also like the effects on shore birds and amphibian species considered in the environmental assessment.”

“The aquifers that underlie Fullerton Cove supply our drinking water as well as the Ramsar listed wetlands located just 500m away from the proposed drilling site.”

“It shouldn’t be left up to local residents to ensure that this coal seam gas project is safe, it should be the job of our governments – that is after all what we elected them to do,” he said.

The case is continuing regarding the adequacy of ecological assessment. Court resumes at 9:30am today. A number of Fullerton Cove residents will be present for the final day in court today and are available for interview.

Contact: Justin Hamilton 0413 245 777 or Sue Walker 0402 857 888

Court photo album:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lockthegatealliance/sets/72157631773325273/

Dozens Attend First Day of Fullerton Cove Coal Seam Gas Legal Challenge

Dozens of Fullerton Cove residents attended the first day of court hearings at the Land and Enviornment court in Sydney yesterday. Local residents watched with interest the proceedings that are to decide whether Dart Energy will be required to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment. Residents heard from the applicant that Dart Energy had failed to consider the environmental impact guidelines.

Justin Hamilton of the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group said “Today’s attendance by more than 20 local residents, many of whom took the day off work and organised baby-sitters, shows the level of concern about the impacts of drilling for coal seam gas in Fullerton Cove.”

“Unfortunately, several aged residents were forced to sit in the corridor as the Dart Energy entourage took up the majority of seats in the court room.”

“The aquifers that underlie Fullerton Cove supply our drinking water as well as the Ramsar listed wetlands located just 500m away from the proposed drilling site.”

“It shouldn’t be left up to local residents to ensure that this coal seam gas project is safe, it should be the job of our governments – that is after all what we elected them to do” he said.

A number of residents will remain in Sydney for the duration of the hearing.

For interview or comment contact: Justin Hamilton: 0413 245 777 or Sue Walker 0402 857 888

Photos from the first day of the hearing can be downloaded from the following link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lockthegatealliance/sets/72157631773325273/

Floodgates Open to Coal Seam Gas in NSW – Government Renews 22 Exploration Licences

The O’Farrell Government yesterday opened the floodgates to coal seam gas mining in NSW with Minister for Resources Chris Hartcher moving to renew 22 coal seam gas exploration licences including many of the most controversial and hotly contested titles in NSW.

The full list of renewals is available here [PDF].

“Barry O’Farrell has let the Energy Minister off the leash and in one fell swoop he has opened the door to coal seam gas drilling across vast areas which include some of our most iconic landscapes” said Drew Hutton, President of Lock The Gate Alliance.”

“This is a dark day for NSW and communities from all around the state have every right to feel they have been deceived by a Government that promised the world and has delivered nothing.”

“City and country people alike have been treated with contempt and their concerns about the protection of land and water over-ruled with the renewal of 22 drilling licences covering approximately 5 million hectares of land” he said.

“The Minister has renewed the Apex Energy licence (PEL 444) in the Sydney drinking water catchment, putting at risk water supplies for 4.2 million people and breaking a cast-iron guarantee made by the Premier before the last election” said Carmel Flint, campaign co-ordinator with Lock The Gate Alliance.

“The Santos licence in the Pilliga Forest (PEL 238) has been renewed despite the fact that it is still under investigation for a litany of environmental failures including contamination of soils and pollution of water.”

“The fertile black soil plains of Bellata, near Moree, are not safe either with PEL 470 renewed despite all 84 landholders in the area joining together and submitting a detailed objection which exposed numerous breaches of conditions and showed these rich vertosol soils were no place for a gas field.”

“In the Northern Rivers, the people of this beautiful region who voted 87% ‘NO’ to coal seam gas in a council poll on Sunday, are now faced with renewal of two Metgasco licences (PEL 13 & 16) that threaten long-term sustainable industries like farming and tourism.”

“The brave people of Fullerton Cove have not been spared either, with PEL 458 renewed despite several major non-compliances with environmental conditions, a current legal challenge and entrenched opposition from the wider Newcastle area to drilling in their water supply” she said.

Information or comment: Drew Hutton 0428 487110, Carmel Flint 0400 521474

Council candidates put clean water before coal seam gas

Support for ‘no-go’ areas, proper health and environmental assessments, more information and a moratorium on coal and coal seam gas developments has been expressed by numerous local candidates across Port Stephens in the lead up to this weekend’s election.

Answers from candidates standing for Port Stephens Council have been flooding in over the past week in response to mounting community concern surrounding the scale and speed of inappropriate coal and gas mining in the Newcastle region.

“These results give us a clearer picture of which candidates are going to represent our community interests and protect our communities, health and our natural environment from coal seam gas interests,” said Sue Walker from the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.

“Overwhelmingly, it’s clear council candidates are concerned about the Dart Energy proposal to drill for coal seam gas in Fullerton Cove so close to our drinking water supplies,” Ms Walker said.

“We wanted to know whether the candidates would call for an Environmental Impact Assessment of the Dart Energy project and support the local community to protect their water supply”

Contact: Sue Walker, Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group, 0402 857 888

Results:

Positive responses from the questionnaire regarding support for the Fullerton Cove community were obtained from the following Port Stephens candidates: Cr Peter Kafer, Caitlin Spiller, Cr Bruce Mackenzie, Cr Ken Jordan, Cr Steve Tucker, Darryl Doggett, Nathan Warburton, Liz Stephens

The following candidates attended the blockade: Cr Geoff Dingle, Shaun McEachern, Caitlin Spiller, Cr Sally Dover, Cr Steve Tucker, Nathan Warburton and Liz Stephens

Court Calls a Halt to Dart Energy Gas Drilling at Fullerton Cove

In a historic decision, the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group today won an injunction to prevent Dart Energy from drilling for coal seam gas at Fullerton Cove, near Newcastle, until a full legal challenge has been heard.

The legal action followed a nine day blockade of the Dart Energy drilling by local residents, which was eventually broken up by the riot squad and then re-established by the community across the road from the site.

The injunction allows Dart Energy to complete road works and the development of a well pad but prevents any drilling at the site.

“We are incredibly happy with the decision by the Land and Environment Court today to call a halt to coal seam gas drilling by Dart Energy at Fullerton Cove” said Justin Hamilton, spokesperson for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.

“This injunction is a victory not just for the Fullerton Cove community but for communities throughout NSW who are having coal seam gas drill rigs forced onto their land.”

“It sends a strong message to coal seam gas companies that communities are prepared to stand up for their land and water and expose planning loopholes which favour mining over people and environment.”

“There will be no drilling allowed at Fullerton Cove until the full court case has been heard and a judgement handed down which means that our drinking water and wetlands are safe for now.”

“We hope that Dart Energy will now reassess their plans for our area and voluntarily withdraw from the exploration licence entirely.”

“Failing that, we believe the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, should intervene and cancel the exploration licence on the grounds of the significant non-compliances that have occurred previously.”

“Special thanks are due to our legal representatives – solicitors at the Environmental Defenders Office and Barrister, Verity McWilliam” he said.

Information or comment: Justin Hamilton 0413 245 777 or Sue Walker 0402 857 888

Fullerton Cove Residents Travel to Sydney for Court Hearing on Coal Seam Gas

Where: Land and Environment Court, Sydney

When: 9:30am Tuesday 4th September

What: The Land and Environment Court will rule tomorrow on whether coal seam gas operations by Dart Energy will be halted pending a full legal challenge.

The Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group have filed a legal challenge against Dart Energy in the Land and Environment Court questioning the legality of their proposed coal seam gas pilot project under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

They are seeking an injunction on Tuesday to prevent further work on the project until the case has been heard.

Four Fullerton Cove residents will be travelling to Sydney for the hearing.

Information:

Spokesperson: Justin Hamilton
Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group – 0413 245 777

Sue Walker, Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group – 0402 857 888

Barry O’farrell on Fullerton Cove Drilling Approval and Compensation Fears

The approval for Dart Energy to drill four coal seam gas wells at Fullerton the Cove was granted by Barry O’Farrell’s current government in June of this year, despite comments yesterday by Barry O’Farrell that the Fullerton Cove coal seam gas project was approved by the former government.

When discussing coal seam gas approvals and Fullerton Cove with Alan Jones yesterday, O’Farrell stated, “What’s happening is what happened before we were elected… it was not my government… I wish I could unpick coal seam gas exploration licences granted under the former Labor government, but doing so could open up the State to compensation liabilities”.

Wilderness Society Newcastle spokesperson Prue Bodsworth said, “Barry O’Farrell’s government approved the drilling for coal seam gas at Fullerton Cove in June of this year.”

“The approval was made by the O’Farrell government in spite of the outcomes of his own audit into coal seam gas in NSW released in April of this year. The audit found two high level non‐compliances were reported for the PEL 458 project at Fullerton Cove,” she said.

The audit report states, ‘One of these related to the failure to properly rehabilitate a site… the other related to possible acid sulphate soil issues and the lack of appropriate surface water and groundwater monitoring.’

O’Farrell’s compensation fears are unfounded. Under provisions in the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, the NSW Government has the power to cancel or suspend petroleum titles, without having to pay compensation. Section 22 of the Act states:

(3A) The Minister may suspend all or any specified operations under a petroleum title until further notice if the holder of the title contravenes:

(b) any condition of the title that is identified as a condition related to environmental management.

(5) No compensation is payable by the Crown for or in respect of the cancellation of, or a suspension of operations under, a petroleum title.

“In light of the two high level non‐compliance environmental issues exposed at Fullerton Cove earlier this year, the O’Farrell government had the power to cancel the petroleum title without having to pay compensation,” said Ms Bodsworth.

“Barry O’Farrell can’t keep blaming the former government. The Dart Energy Fullerton Cove coal seam gas project is an approval that Barry O’Farrell’s government has approved and which his government can stop.

“The NSW Government knew the dangers of this project from their own NSW Commissioned audit released in April, yet chose to ignore the non‐compliance and give this high risk project the go ahead in June.

“If Barry O’Farrell is serious in protecting water and communities from coal seam gas he will instruct the Energy Minister Chris Hartcher to step in and prevent any further work by Dart Energy at Fullerton Cove,” she said.

More information: Prue Bodsworth, The Wilderness Society Newcastle, 0427 417 870

June 2012 media release by NSW Government approving Dart Energy at Fullerton Cove

April 2012 Audit report

Police arrests at Fullerton Cove coal seam gas blockade, community stands firm

Ten people have now been fined for refusing to move from the Fullerton Cove blockade, including three generations of women from one family: 95 year old Linda, her daughter Robyn and daughter Lisa, who remains locked-on to a tractor.

“We have over 70 community members on site to support the blockade currently, with more streaming in all the time,” said Linsday Clout, spokesperson for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.

“Police on site are issuing $200 dollar fines to those who refuse to move from the blockade site.”

Police rescue squad have arrived to cut off local Fullerton Cove residents Julie Wood and Lisa McDonald from the tractor, where they have been locked-on since last Wednesday. They will be arrested.

“After over a week of blockading, Dart Energy has still not contacted local residents to discuss our concerns, continuing their trend of extremely poor community consultation,” he said.

“We are simply requesting work is paused at the site until the government undertakes full environmental impact assessments and can prove this proposed coal seam gas drilling poses no risk to the internationally significant wetlands, local community health or our water supply.”

“We’re asking both state and federal governments to intervene and prevent this dangerous experiment on our water supplies until further scientific evidence has been collected.
A case is also pending in the Land and Environment Court, questioning whether all the appropriate approvals have been met.”

“Premier Barry O’Farrell and Energy Minister Hartcher are playing hard ball with our community by refusing to support our reasonable request for an injunction on the coal seam gas drilling at Fullerton Cove until the case has been heard in the Land and Environment court.”

“Our efforts will not end with today’s police action. Hundreds of people have visited this blockade over the past week to join in our defence to protect this local community, the internationally significant wetland and our drinking water supply from coal seam gas drilling. We will continue to stand firm,” Mr Clout concluded.

Information or comment: Lindsay Clout 0437 300 377