Coal seam gas protesters in clear

TWO women arrested during a Hunter Region coal seam gas protest have had the charges against them dropped by police.

Lisa McDonald was arrested along with friend and then neighbour Julie Wood, during an August blockade of Dart Energy’s Fullerton Cove test rig.

Ms McDonald was charged with preventing the free passage of a person or vehicle.

She was also issued a $200 fine along with other protesters, including her 96-year-old grandmother, Linda Reynolds.

‘‘Our cases [were] adjourned twice last year and Julie and I were due back in court later this month,’’ Ms McDonald said. 

A police media spokesman confirmed the charges had been dropped.

‘‘The two people were originally issued criminal infringement notices,’’ the police spokesman said.

 ‘‘However, they refused to move. So they were issued field court attendance notices.

‘‘They ultimately paid the fines for the infringement notices, so police withdrew the charges.’’

The August protest lasted for nine days and was followed by a Land and Environment Court challenge.

This action resulted in a ‘‘limited injunction’’ against Dart, which prevents it from drilling until the case is decided.

A spokesman for Dart said the company was still waiting for the court’s decision but believed coal seam gas could be extracted ‘‘in an environmentally safe way’’.

‘‘The industry is tightly regulated in NSW and Dart will continue to engage with the community on any concerns expressed by community members,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘Coal seam gas will create job opportunities, increase economic activity and provide a much-needed low-emission local energy source.’’

It was unclear last night what impact the announcement by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on coal seam gas buffer zones would have on the Fullerton Cove project.

But speaking before Mr O’Farrell’s move, Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group secretary Julie Walker said the community was determined to keep Dart Energy and the coal seam gas industry out of the area.

The action group has helped to organise a coal seam gas awareness meeting for tomorrow night at the Bull and Bush Hotel, Medowie, from 6.30pm.

ARRESTED: Lisa McDonald at the protest.  Pictures: Peter Stoop

ARRESTED: Lisa McDonald at the protest. Pictures: Peter Stoop