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A Senate committee investigating the coal seam gas industry has been “blown away” by the “absolute despair” of affected farmers, Liberal NSW Senator Bill Heffernan says.


The inquiry into the burgeoning coal seam gas industry, held in Queensland this week, is looking at a range of concerns, including its potential effects on Australia’s underground water reserves.

Confidential agreements with energy companies meant some farmers were being paid just $250 for the life of a well, while others were being paid $9000 a year, Senator Heffernan told Macquarie Radio on Friday.

“There is absolute inequity … it is an absolute disgrace,” said Senator Heffernan, who is the chairman of the committee.

The inquiry had heard evidence of contamination, disruption on farmers’ lands and a lack of water quality monitoring, he said.

“We absolutely need harmonisation and regulations around coal seam gas mining in Australia,” he said.

All the committee members were “of a like mind” on the issue, he said.

“We were just blown away with the absolute despair of the people we met and their sense of hopelessness.

“We’ve absolutely, absolutely got to intervene whether through federal legislation or COAG (Council of Australian Governments) or somehow,” Senator Heffernan said.

NSW acts on coal seam gas mining

Yesterday the NSW government announced the use of toxic chemicals in coal seam gas mining will be banned in NSW, and a moratorium on the controversial “fracking” process put in place until year’s end.

NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher announced a ban on BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) in drilling.

A December 31 moratorium will be introduced on the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, process of injecting water or other fluids into cracks in rock to extract gas and/or oil.

The government will also introduce tougher restrictions on the use of groundwater, and new public consultation guidelines.

“We understand there needs to be a balance between agricultural land and mining and were determined to get that balance right,” Mr Hartcher said.

“That is why we will require all new applications for mining or petroleum projects which have the potential to affect agricultural resources or industries to submit an Agriculture Impact Statement.

“It is also why we are identifying strategic agricultural lands and through the Strategic Regional Land Use policy process, ensuring that provisions are included to maintain the significant value of these lands.”

A 60-day moratorium on new exploration licences for coal, coal seam gas and petroleum ends on Saturday, and will not be extended.


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