Continuing The Greens long-standing strong opposition to CSG, Abigail today spoke in support of a Bill to ban CSG in NSW.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (21:11:59): On behalf of The Greens, I support the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Coal Seam Gas Moratorium) Bill 2019 and its intentions. It should have had Parliament's full support in 2011 when The Greens first introduced a similar bill and again in the last term of Parliament when The Greens and Labor introduced very similar versions of the bill. It would have saved a lot of destruction and community concern and, while it was at it, it could have saved Santos some money and bad press. New South Wales does not need—and its people do not want—this industry. The bill could not have come at a better time. Not wanting to let a good crisis go to waste, the Federal Coalition Government is calling for a "gas-led recovery". The director of the gas company Strike Energy is heading up the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, along with a grab bag of mining industry mates, and the New South Wales Government has approved expansion of a coalmine under Sydney's drinking water catchment—disaster capitalism at its very best.
The recent upper House inquiry into the implementation of the recommendations contained in the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer'sIndependent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales was scathing. The industry and this Government are not meeting community expectations and the Government has not met the chief scientist's recommendations made in 2014. What is it waiting for? The Government has built support for the industry on a series of falsehoods. First, gas is not a transition fuel. International investors are making that clear. An expanding gas policy risks leaving gas as a stranded asset, with New South Wales left to clean up the environmental and social mess, as we are with coal-fired power. There is a growing body of evidence, led by Harvard University, that fugitive methane emissions from gas extraction make it worse than coal. It is nobody's clean energy panacea.
Industry and governments must accept the science and use existing fossil fuel energy to power a rapid transition to renewables because what we have left is far too important to waste on boiling the kettle. Secondly, domestic gas prices are not high because of a lack of supply but because of the east coast gas markets linked to the international liquefied natural gas market price. Thirdly, gas is not beneficial for landholders. The recent inquiry into the implementation of the chief scientist's recommendations found that the risks are so high that landholders are unable to access insurance and are, therefore, left to bear the risk posed by coal seam gas activities entirely by themselves. Fourthly, gas is not an economic win for New South Wales. The State Government has failed to introduce a cost recovery framework for regulation of the coal seam gas industry. The upper House inquiry states:
… close to $3.75 million is being paid each year by taxpayers to … subsidise the CSG industry. Since the Chief Scientist's report was delivered, this amounts to nearly $20 million dollars of taxpayers money.
The committee also noted that Santos has not paid any royalties on its commercial gas extraction in New South Wales—not one cent. Instead, it has taken a resource from the people of New South Wales and given the resulting profits to its international shareholders.
Finally, environmental safeguards are not in place for the industry. Evidence presented to the upper House inquiry shows a lack of background data, poor capacity to collect, store and compare risk data, and no capacity to assess or account for cumulative risk. In supporting the bill, The Greens note, in particular, one of its provisions. It is vital that public interest is reintroduced as one of the grounds for decision-making, but its removal in 2014 is indicative of the special treatment that the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed in New South Wales for far too long. Objections to the public interest provision were based on the industry's need for certainty, but it is the people of this State who need certainty, not cashed-up mining executives and major party donors. We want certainty that our governments will act in the best interests of our health, food supplies and water, and will take action on climate change so that the summer of 2019-20 is not the new normal. We fully commend the bill to the House.