NSW Chief ScientistProfessor Mary O’Kane to speak at Cessnock coal gasforum

admin | 杭州桑拿
4 Dec 2018

Professor Mary O’KaneTHE NSW Chief Scientist will be invited to address a forum on coal seam gas in Cessnock, after councillors voted on Wednesday night to hold the forum.

The council will invite Professor Mary O’Kane – as well as representatives from AGL, Professor Garry Wilgoose from the University of Newcastle and coal seam gas opponents – to address members of the community about the controversial mining practice.

In July last year councillors voted to defer a decision on the forum until after the report from Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor O’Kane was released.

That report – published in October – found that although there was a ‘‘concerning culture’’ of coal seam gas regulatory agencies not ensuring industry compliance, many of the challenges posed by the industry ‘‘can be managed’’.

On Wednesday some councillors suggested there was no need for the forum since the council has already expressed it’s opposition to the mining practice.

But Greens councillor James Ryan said it was important to give the community an ‘‘up-to-date perspective’’ on the issue.

While Cr Ryan said he believed coal seam gas posed ‘‘unnecessary risks’’, he said all sides of the debate would be able to be heard.

Parts of the Cessnock local government area are covered by a petroleum exploration licence owned by energy company AGL – what it calls its Hunter Gas Project.

In the past that’s made it a contentious issue for a town on the doorstep of the Hunter valley wine region.

But while councillors were waiting for the chief scientist’s report, the state government did much of the job for them.

In October last year the NSW government released its draft amendments to the Strategic Planning Policy which introduced a two kilometre residential exclusion zone around coal seam gas project. It saw AGL revise its estimates on gas reserves from more than 400 petajoules to zero.

The company claims it is committed to the Hunter Gas Project, and in June said it had a ‘‘long-term commitment’’ to the Hunter Valley and ‘‘planned to be here for many years to come’’.

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