04 June 2020
(Bills - Second Reading Debate, 4 June 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I strongly support the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Coal Seam Gas Moratorium) Bill 2019, which will help protect environment, biodiversity, health, food and water from the destructive risks of coal seam gas [CSG] mining. The bill would impose a moratorium on new and extended coal seam gas mining across the State and introduce much-needed CSG mining no-go zones in the Northern Rivers, major urban water catchments, national parks, residential areas and agricultural land. The bill would also establish an expert advisory board to advise the Government on the moratorium, and on the impacts and risks of CSG, and would reintroduce the public interest test for petroleum title development assessments. The bill is vital to securing the future sustainability of this State.
Coal seam gas mining is a heavy‑duty industrial activity with significant risks. The process involves drilling through rock strata and injecting sand, water or chemicals into wells to fracture coal seam gas so the gas can float to the surface. The water extracted from the process can contain toxic and radioactive compounds and heavy metals. I have heard reports of devastating impacts from coal seam gas mining on the Pilliga State forest. The forest is an important biodiversity region and is the largest surviving remnant of temperate woodland in eastern Australia. The destruction must stop and I oppose plans to expand mining in that area. The potential for CSG mining to contaminate water sources through, for example, overflows and seepages from holding ponds is of great concern. Sydney is the only city in the world that allows coalmining in its water catchment. Studies show mining results in the loss of up to 34 million litres a day from our dams. Sydney's water capacity dropped to around 40 per cent and Sydneysiders were asked to reduce their water use. Despite a temporary freeze on new and expanded mining in the catchment, two new longwall mines beneath Woronora Reservoir were approved in March.
Protecting our water and food supply, our biodiversity and our health should be above party politics or city versus country arguments. All major parties have had inconsistent policies around mining, particularly CSG, depending on whether they are in government or opposition. There are people in both the city and the country who profit and lose from mining operations. These arguments are tired and irrelevant. We must do better if we are going to address the serious future challenges of environmental and economic sustainability. It is time we all work together. Regional jobs do not rely on risky mining practices. Indeed, loss of water from mining prevents the expansion of many industries. Failure to diversify jobs in mining regions has put them at risk of future economic stagnation when the market changes, including shrinking global thermal coal demand. We cannot assume that gas will be around forever. Gas uses can be electrified and this change will happen as electricity becomes more sustainable. Liquid hydrogen from renewable energy is being developed as a potential gas alternative.
If we continue to expand mining unchecked, it will be difficult to diversify regional economies and they will lose in the long term. The Environment and Planning Committee is looking at employment opportunities in coal communities and we are learning about significant growth in sustainable jobs, such as renewable energy technology, manufacturing, agriculture and green chemicals. We need to start focusing on a smooth transition for those communities to prevent future economic and unemployment shock. Our planning framework has proven that it cannot prevent the destruction of important native bushland, the loss of drinking water during drought or the removal of vital agricultural land. Its aim is to manage risks, not prevent them. A CSG moratorium is now appropriate. The bill provides a way forward and I thank Independent MLC Mr Justin Field for introducing it. I commend the bill to the House.