Santos rejects calls to walk away from CSG work in NSW

Santos has advised its shareholders to reject a resolution which would see the company withdraw from work at its Narrabri gas project.

Today the company advised the ASX it had received a resolution from 161 shareholders calling for the company to ditch CSG work at the site in north-west NSW.

“As Santos shareholders, we are concerned by the ongoing reputational, regulatory and investment risks associated with our company’s Narrabri Gas Project (Gunnedah Basin Project). We move that the Narrabri Gas Project in North West NSW be withdrawn from Santos' portfolio,” the resolution said.

“The Narrabri Gas Project threatens Santos’ reputation and makes our company look like a rogue operator. Significant and ongoing community and scientific concern threatens not just our reputation, but also adds regulatory risk in a State that has maintained a flip-flop approach to coal seam gas…”

Santos said the shareholders concerned represent 0.0475 per cent of the company’s shares, and advised others to vote against the proposed resolution when it is tabled at the annual general meeting on May 16.

It added the requisition request had been promoted by The Wilderness Society  “as part of its anti-fossil fuels campaign”.

“The board considers that it is in the interests of the company, its shareholders and the broader community to continue with the Narrabri Gas Project,” Santos said today.

Santos said the project was an important one for the company, and would provide an additional source of domestic gas supply, create jobs and provide a return to shareholders.

It said legacy issues with the Bibblewindi holding pond had been the subject of fear and misinformation.

The shareholder resolution follows revelations Santos was fined $1500 by the Environmental Protection Authority after the contamination of an aquifer in the Pilliga Forest which led to elevated uranium,lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron and nickel levels.

 “The NSW Government and the EPA found that the leak was “small, localised and contained” and there was no harm to either humans or animals yet the incident has been portrayed as a major pollution event threatening drinking and irrigation water supplies,” Santos said.

The company said it has environmental plans in place to protect the Pilliga and to ensure that the gas project is developed in accordance with industry leading standards.

“Santos has broad support in the Narrabri region due to the community’s increased understanding of our ability to operate this project in a way that minimises the impact on both the environment, landowners and the broader community while delivering real benefits to the state and the region.”

As part of its work in the region, Santos plans to drill 15 exploration wells in the Pilliga State forest and restart existing pilots that have been shut in since Santos took over operations in November 2011.

The company was granted permission to drill a further eight exploration wells in the region in September.

Campaign groups say there is widespread support in the call for Santos to leave Narrabri.

The Wilderness Society and GetUp! said a petition calling for the end to CSG projects in the Pilliga had gathered 32,095 supporters within three days of its launch.

“Much of the community in north-west NSW, including the Gomeroi Traditional Owners, oppose the project,” Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said.

“Last month more than 600 people including many farmers unanimously approved the Narrabri Resolution opposing the project and calling for an end to coal seam gas extraction in NSW.”

“The company’s reputation has been hammered by its involvement in this project. It has been fined three times by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority, had to defend its actions in court, and has been tainted with images of police dragging away farmers trying to protect their groundwater.”

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