AGL coal seam gas licence 'lawful'

THE Land and Environment Court has rejected a challenge to AGL’s coal seam gas exploration licence in the Gloucester and Barrington Tops area, with a judge ruling that the licence was granted lawfully.

Justice Rachel Pepper said it was ‘‘common knowledge that the exploration for, and use of, coal seam gas is contentious’’, but she said her task was to judge the merits of the decision granting the licence in accordance with the law.

‘‘This judgment will, however, do little to quell the current anxiety surrounding the coal seam gas mining debate,’’ she said yesterday.

‘‘In this regard it must be understood that the merits, or otherwise, of the use of this resource are irrelevant to the issues raised for determination by these judicial review proceedings ...’’

The Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance challenged the NSW Planning Assessment Commission’s decision to grant a licence to AGL Upstream Infrastructure Investments to extract, process and transport coal seam gas from the Gloucester Basin, the court heard.

The approval was for numerous coal seam gas wells in an area covering 1600square metres as well as construction of a processing plant and a pipeline from Stratford to a delivery station at Hexham.

The alliance, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, argued that the licence approvals were invalid because the licence conditions covering groundwater and wastewater were too general.

They also argued that the commission did not consider a legal principle properly.

Justice Pepper rejected both arguments and ordered that the alliance pay AGL and the commission’s legal costs.

Alliance Chairman Graeme Healy said there was widespread disappointment about the decision. He expected the community would still press its demand for an independent hydrogeological study of the entire Gloucester Basin before any more exploration or development by AGL.

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