Appearring in the Sydney Morning Herald 25 May
Story by Anne Davies
Photo: Sasha Woolley
Despite forecasts of falling demand for gas in NSW, the push for further commercial exploitation of coal seam gas (CSG) in some of the state's richest agricultural areas is about to regain momentum following the NSW election.
Even though the Australian Energy Market Regulator says there is now no supply gap in NSW and demand for gas will fall 17 per cent by 2019, the CSG industry is preparing to step up its efforts, arguing that the issue is now one of "energy security" for NSW .
Numerous government decisions will be taken in coming months that will either constrain the CSG industry or allow it to expand. There's currently a freeze on new exploration licences that will be replaced with a strategic release framework, new codes and conditions are being finalised, and CSG will soon be regulated by the Environment Protection Agency. The NSW government also plans to have a "use it or lose it" regime for licences. It has decided not to appeal against an overturning of its suspension of Metgasco's gas drilling licence near LIsmore.
Assisting the industry are an army of former political staff and former politicians, many of whom had a role in the regulation of the industry before jumping the fence to industry. A few have come back the other way, moving from senior jobs in the major gas companies to senior advising roles in ministers offices.
The accompanying graphic reveals the extent of cross pollination between those who set policy at a state and federal level in the coal seam gas industry and those who seek to profit from it - as direct participants or as advocates for the companies.