Apex Energy have been denied permission to drill 16 exploration wells within Illawarra water catchment areas.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) rejected the proposed drilling program yesterday, stating that more conclusive studies on the impact of CSG activities to drinking water were needed.
PAC said that until the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer’s review on the impacts, along with the state government’s resulting policy decisions were made, it would be inappropriate to approve the drilling program.
PAC found that the impacts of CSG activities ‘were being questioned in a range of studies in NSW, Australia and internationally’.
“It appears that the potential risks of coal seam gas activities are still being established and that there is some uncertainty regarding the potential impacts of the suite of coal seam gas extraction techniques which could be applied within various geological formations,” PAC said.
“..a finding that Coal Seam Gas Operations may have fewer groundwater and subsidence impacts is not accepted as a reason to support the proposal.”
Apex was first given consent to drill boreholes around Darkes Forest and Madden Plains in 2009 for a three-year period only.
The company lodged a request with NSW Planning for an extension of its drilling program in August last year.
Seven of the proposed boreholes are within the Metropolitan and Woronora areas, sparking outrage from locals demanding the catchment area be protected.
The application triggered 237 public submissions, the majority of which objected the proposal with the Illawarra region seeing a storm of protests against the application, The Illawarra Mercury reported
In May, Wollongong councillors stepped up a campaign to send a strong message to the NSW Department of Planning an Infrastructure that they do not want CSG exploration to go ahead in the region.
Greens councillor George Takacs urged the council to demand the government prohibit any new coal, oil and gas exploration permits amid growing environmental concerns.
"The whole debate about coal seam gas completely misses the bloody point – we are talking about the security of our water and agriculture [but] our agriculture had no security in a planet that warms by another four degrees," he said.
While Stop CSG Illawarra spokeswoman Jess Moore said her group were prepared to blockade any drilling operations.
"We want the 2 per cent of land in NSW that supplies the drinking water of 60 per cent of people protected," Moore said.
Apex has previously said it would not be using ‘fracking’ and denies the wells would pose a risk to drinking water.