Narrabri gas project approval appeal dismissed by Land and Environment Court

Around the world, prices for oil, gas and coal are skyrocketing, as supplies fail to keep pace with rising demand from economies recovering from the COVID-19 downturn, threatening the ability of countries including China and India to keep the lights on.


“On the east coast of Australia, regulators continue to warn about an increasingly tight market in the future,” Mr Gallagher said. “A shortage of supply means only one thing and that is higher prices for NSW households and businesses.″⁣

Santos said Narrabri gas could supply up to half of NSW’s gas needs, and has committed to reserving 100 per cent of Narrabri gas for the domestic market.

The legal challenge in the Land and Environment Court caused a 12-month blow-out to Santos’ targeted timeframe for giving Narrabri the financial go-ahead. Santos will still need to carry out 12 to 18 months of appraisal drilling before the phased development can proceed.

Justice Preston said he would not order MGPA to pay Santos’ legal fees unless the company requested the group to do so.

Santos is expected to seek costs.

Narrabri has been at the front line in a years-long struggle between the gas sector and residents worried about the impact of gas drilling on the environment and the climate. The Santos project has faced years of delays and thousands of objections over feared impacts to groundwater, damage to the Pilliga state forest and its contribution to global warming.

‘Transition’ fuel

Supporters of gas promote it as the necessary “transition” fuel required to smooth the path from coal-fired power to more intermittent wind and solar energy sources, as well as a critical raw material in a range of manufacturing and industrial processes. Climate advocates say it remains a significant source of emissions that must be phased out, not expanded, to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

MGPA spokesperson and Mullaley beef farmer Margaret Fleck said the group was disappointed with the result.

Their lawyers, Environmental Defenders Office, will review the judgment in the coming days.

“If the project goes ahead, the impacts of its greenhouse gas emissions on the global climate, and the people and environment of NSW, will be substantial,” said EDO managing lawyer of safe climate corporate and gas Brendan Dobbie. “At a time when the world is preparing to meet in Glasgow to discuss action to reduce emissions to avoid further catastrophic climate change, it is disheartening that those impacts are now one step closer to fruition.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said despite the decision, the group would continue to oppose the project.

“Farmers and communities in north-west NSW are already suffering the destructive impacts of the climate crisis, and this project will make it worse,” she said. “The Narrabri CSG project would also have a severe impact on the underground water farmers surrounding Narrabri rely on for their businesses, and it would wreak havoc on the Pilliga forest, which is held sacred by Gomeroi people.

“Today’s ruling is devastating, but it’s not the end of the battle. Santos will never build its gasfield at Narrabri. The community does not support it and it has no social licence to proceed.”

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