9 January 2013, Media Release: Coal seam gas exempt from total fire bans
Santos can release and burn off gas in Pilliga forest on total fire ban days.
It is inconceivable that as fires rage across the state and residents remain on high alert gas operations are allowed to release and burn off gas, even in forests on days of total fire bans.
North-western NSW residents are alarmed that Santos can release and burn off gas from its coal seam gas operations in the Pilliga forest, where there have been two fires in its gas fields in the past few weeks.
“There’s a total fire ban in place across the region and a severe fire danger rating right across the Northwest, yet gas company Santos are in the Pilliga, with full rights by our government to carry on business as usual, despite the fire risks,” said local farmer Tony Pickard.
“There have been two fires, one reported, one unreported, in the Santos coal seam gas field in the Pilliga just in the last month, and a large bushfire in the Pilliga just south of here late last year.
“Santos really has no fire fighting capability within their forest base at the Bibblewindi water treatment plant where their gas flare is located.
“On a day like today with high temperatures and winds, the local fire service would have great difficulty attending and controlling a fire in the Pilliga State Forest gasfield.
Wilderness Society Newcastle Campaign Manager Naomi Hogan said NSW Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher needs to explain this reckless exemption under the Rural Fires Act.
“The Pilliga forest is an extremely fire prone area and it is very concerning that coal seam gas venting and flaring is exempt from the precautions of a total fire ban,” Ms Hogan said.
“The recent and rapid spread of coal seam gas across NSW means this Rural Fires Act must be reviewed and updated to minimize risks when severe fire warnings are in place.
“What is Michael Gallacher, our NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, doing to protect residents of NSW from coal seam gas flaring and methane gas during total fire bans?
“Why is the safely of NSW residents being placed at risk by allowing gas exploration, flaring and venting on total fire ban days?
“Can Minister Gallacher show coal seam gas exploration on high bushfire risk days does not increase fire risk to lives, property and our natural areas?
“NSW needs a complete overhaul of this outdated Rural Fires Act to properly consider coal seam gas activities and any associated bushfire risks,” she said.
Schedule 15 of the Rural Fires Act 1997 allows for, “Fire lit, maintained or used to dispose of gaseous exhaust emissions through a chimney in connection with the exploration, collection, drainage, refining, manufacture or purification of gas”.