A CENTRAL Coast man was arrested in the Pilliga forest outside Narrabri on Thursday as protesters ramp up a campaign against Santos plans for 850 coal seam gas wells in the forest.
Carpenter Jason Joll, of Calga, was charged with trespass after walking inside Santos’ Leewood coal seam gas wastewater treatment facility construction area.
He joined the protest to draw attention to Santos’ broader plan for 850 wells in the Pilliga. The Leewood facility is designed to treat up to one million litres of coal seam gas wastewater each day from exploratory works in the forest, and is under construction without development consent.
Mr Joll, 49, was shocked at the size of the project which protesters say threatens the Great Artesian Basin.
“I’m here because this is an issue of national significance,” Mr Joll said.
The Pilliga is the largest remaining block of temperate dry forest in eastern Australia.The NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) on Thursday announced legal action against Santos after the NSW Government backed Santos in saying the Leewood facility did not need development consent because it is part of the exploration process.
The EDO will argue the facility is a substantial and new industrial water treatment plant which cannot simply be classified as coal seam gas exploration.
“This incremental expansion of coal seam gas exploration and extraction in the Pilliga is at the heart of the current court action,” the EDO said.
Santos said the Leewood facility will allow saline water produced during the coal seam gas exploratory process to be treated by reverse osmosis. More than two thirds will be reused, it said.
“Santos is proposing to use the treated water to irrigate a section of the Leewood property and for operational purposes,” the company said.
The Narrabri project is the focus of its work in NSW after community protests forced the company to retreat from other areas. It estimates up to 1200 jobs during construction, with royalties of more than $1.6 billion.