Government to buy back licences and "reset" NSW's CSG system
UPDATE 2.55pm: THE State Government will offer to buy-back of petroleum exploration licences from existing licence holders as it moves to "reset" the state's CSG system, North Coast Nationals MPs Thomas George, Don Page, Chris Gulaptis and Geoff Provest have said.
An earlier version of this report said the government would buy back all licences. This is not necessarily the case.
In a joint statement, the MPs expanded on earlier comments by NSW Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts.
"We are enacting legislation to revoke all of the State's Petroleum Exploration Licence Applications, which cover 43% of the state, and at the same time we will be implementing a buy-back of existing licences," Lismore MP Thomas George was quoted saying.
"This will come at a price but we believe that our land and water are worth the cost.
"We will adopt all of the Chief Scientist & Engineer, Prof Mary O'Kane's recommendations to ensure that coal seam gas activity only occurs where it is appropriate.
"The NSW Government is serious. As matters currently before the Courts show, we are managing the CSG industry on our own terms."
Tweed MP Geoff Provest was quoted calling on companies with exploration licences on the North Coast to give them up.
""I call on industry to reflect on its standing in the community and consider handing licences that cover inappropriate areas back to the government through the buy back process," he said.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said responsibility for where gas was drilled ultimately came down to the local MPs.
"We will determine where coal seam gas takes place, not the gas companies," he said.
11.30am: THE NSW Government has released their long-awaited CSG policy, promising to deliver "world's best practice standards and regulation ... while securing vital gas supplies for the State".
As expected the government will adopt all recommendations made in the Chief Scientist's report, saying is is listening to the concerns of the community.
"The Final Report concluded that, in general, the risks of gas development can be effectively managed with the right regulation, engineering solutions and ongoing management," Energy Minister Anthony Roberts said.
There is to be no exclusion zone for the Northern Rivers, however it is unclear if some existing licences may be revoked.
"The entire system for Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) will be reset, with the NSW Government deciding which areas will be released for exploration and to whom.
"A freeze on assessing new PEL applications will remain in place until the new system is set, and legislation will extinguish 16 previous applications.
"Landholders and communities will share in the financial benefits during exploration and production and a Community Benefits Fund will deliver infrastructure for communities upfront," Mr Roberts said.
"We will commission an independent review of royalties to ensure we have the right settings to develop a competitive gas industry in the State to meet our supply needs.