Protestors rally against coal seam gas in Sydney. Photo: Stop CSG Sydney

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By Chris Sutton

Marrickville Council has supported a campaign to cancel the drilling licence for coal seam gas (CSG) in the local area.

The decision has been welcomed by Stop CSG Sydney, a community group that is fighting to stop all CSG mining and drilling activity across Sydney.

Stop CSG Sydney President Pip Hinman told City Hub that the group wrote to the Minister of Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts to outline concerns. It took him ten weeks to produce what Ms Hinman called a “non-reply”.

“We got a ‘thank you for bringing this to our attention’. He said the matter is being dealt with by the office of CSG, which he oversees. If the licence is not being fulfilled he has the power to cancel it.”

Mr Roberts recently cancelled 3 Petroleum Exploration Licences (PEL) in the NSW area, having only suspended licences previously.

“We don’t think any community would put up with a test drill or a drill site in their local area,” said Ms Hinman.

“The council is committed to publicising the issue around this campaign, which means people will be made aware that the licence is still alive.”

The letter from Mr Roberts outlined that the office of CSG were reviewing a proposal by IGas Energy to take over Dart Energy, who Ms Hinman said don’t want to hold Australian assets and could re-sell to a company that have drilling underway.

The council recognised the threat drilling posed on residents and unanimously voted to support the campaign. Marrickville Mayor Mark Gardiner and fellow councillors believe that CSG drilling, fracking, and the impact of CSG mining on groundwater is a serious concern, and will erect banners that say ‘Marrickville is coal seam gas free’.

“Back in 2012 a hard-fought community campaign supported by Marrickville Council successfully prevented Dart Energy’s previous CSG drilling plans in St Peters. I’m hopeful that this will be the case again, and that the state government will see sense on this issue and cancel the licence,” said Mr Gardiner.

Adrienne Shilling spoke at the council meeting on behalf of Stop CSG Sydney and informed City Hub that she is hopeful the licence will now be cancelled. She believes the council saw the decision as a “no-brainer”.

“There’s now a precedent. The minister can’t say that he doesn’t cancel licences when it’s clear that he has the capacity if he has the will.”

Ms Shilling outlined the possible risks to residents, as the fringes of the PEL remain in urban areas.

“We know from the experience at Camden where AGL are drilling that methane does escape. We certainly know there is a risk.”

Stop Sydney CSG will continue putting pressure on the minister.

“I think the government is feeling the heat. We will not let this go. We will be writing again. We just won’t rest,” said Ms Shilling.

The council has contacted Mr Roberts to request the cancellation of Dart Energy’s licence to drill for CSG in the local area and have received no response.