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A senate inquiry has made damning findings against Australia’s $60 billion coal seam gas industry and recommended expansions be halted in sensitive areas.
In the most detailed analysis of the industry to date, the report has found the benefits of the CSG industry are a “relatively short-term prospect”.
It has also criticised government handling of the issue, saying approvals for developments were “given prematurely”.
But the gas industry has hit back at the report, and says most of its concerns are already being addressed by governments and the industry.
The inquiry warned CSG had expanded too quickly and regulation and scientific study had failed to keep up.
It said new CSG developments might have to be delayed until “a research-based understanding of geology, ground water, aquifers and soil is developed”.
It said the risks CSG posed to the environment and farmland were potentially far-reaching, and outweighed the short-term benefits.
“Individual gas wells have a life of about 15 years,” it said.
“The industry must not be allowed to undermine or permanently compromise the long-term future of other sectors, most notable agriculture and the environment.”
But the inquiry, headed by NSW Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, stopped short of a complete condemnation.
Heffernan told The Australian the CSG industry should still move forward but at a more considered pace.
“We are not saying there should not be an industry,” he said.
“We are saying to proceed with great caution while we get across the detail of the impacts of this industry.”
Heffernan said the CSG industry had “got well ahead of the knowledge of the long-term impacts”.
APPEA eastern Australia chief operating officer Rick Wilkinson said in a statement industry was already working to address the issues raised in the inquiry.
“The report has been largely overtaken by events and a number of the issues raised are being addressed by industry and independent studies, government policy or regulation,” he said.
The APPEA said coal seam gas already provided one-third of the gas supply in eastern Australia and had been operating “safely and responsibly”.