Hunter Valley Protection Alliance

    Committed to safeguarding the Hunter Valley Australias oldest
    and most visited wine producing region - for future generations.


Contact Executive Officers : Stewart Ewen, Graeme Gibson
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News Headlines

Tuesday, 4 February, 2014. Gas Watch 233. Minister Hazzard and local MP Souris exhorted by community to protect the whole of the Broke Fordwich winegrowing region from CSG.
The Department of Primary Industry (mapping) has recommended to the Planning Department that the significant winegrowing district of Broke Fordwich be divided up into 9 separate, non-contiguous Critical Industrial Clusters – a Swiss cheese effect - it appears from the latest mapping

We have written to Minister Hazzard welcoming the mapping of 2 kilometre exclusion zones around the villages of Broke and Bulga. We have also welcomed the mapping of the viticultural Critical Industry Cluster Exclusion Zone. But we have brought to the attention of the Planning Minister that:

“the whole of the Broke Fordwich winegrowing region falls within the criteria developed by your Department and, that when considering the final governing legislation you take into account not only the mapping of the vineyards within the Broke Fordwich winegrowing region, but the region as a whole.”
( see all in Gas Watch 233 ).


Wednesday, 29 January, 2014. Gas Watch 232. Government’s mapping identifies CSG zones. Yesterday, Ministers Hazzard and Stoner announced that “Horse and Wine Industries Declared a CSG-Free zone”. […well mostly…]

The Department of Primary Industry (mapping) has:

1. To the credit of this Government, confirmed the 2km exclusion zone around residential areas, which now includes the Hunter Valley villages of Broke, Bulga, Camberwell and Jerrys Plains. This is a great step forward in the protection of those villages and their environments.

2. Confirmed some Critical Industry Cluster (CIC) exclusion zones.

3. Not gone far enough in that it has not declared a Critical Industry Cluster exclusion for the whole of the Broke Fordwich winegrowing region (from Paynes Crossing to Warkworth including Broke, Bulga, Fordwich and Milbrodale) but has, rather, declared 5 different, remote and non-contiguous viticulture Critical Industry Clusters within that region. This course is unfathomable. We now have the possiblty of CSG companies able to set up their gasfields in between vineyards, cellar doors, restaurants and tourist accommodation houses in some areas. This has the potential to destroy the wine and wine tourism industry in the Broke Fordwich wine region, the first registered winegrowing region in NSW and the second in the whole of the nation. We hope that the Planning Department will see that separating the Broke Fordwich area into 5 distinct CICs is untenable from a planning viewpoint ( see all in Gas Watch 232 ).


Sunday, 19 January, 2014. Gas Watch 231. AGL to “focus our presence” in Hunter Valley CSG exclusion zones.
AGL intends to “focus our presence in the Hunter region at our property at Yellow Rock, near Broke.” This “focus” comes as an unwelcome surprise to the people of Broke and to the Hunter Valley winegrowing community.

AGL appears intent on turning the Hunter Valley into an industrial gas field, and is moving moving its Singleton shopfront and information centre onto rural land owned by AGL near the vineyard village of Broke.
(AGL to shut John Street shop, see all in Gas Watch 231 ).


Friday, 3 January, 2014. Gas Watch 230. AGL continues to be the neighbour no-one wants.
AGL Energy’s contribution to society during 2013.

Thanks again AGL for your continued efforts to ruin the environment and to poison the soil and water in your inexorable quest for coal seam methane gas at the expense of sustainable rural industries and at the expense of the quiet enjoyment of residential areas.
You’re no better than last year – for the 2012 AGL behaviour see:
Gas Watch 183

AGL’s community involvement 2013:

• AGL is spraying salty water onto pasture onto the floodplain outside Gloucester, notwithstanding that the EPA described the water as “high strength effluent”, in a trial to see what damage will be done to the soil. The EPA report was sidelined even though it gave advice that the action was high risk, threatening valuable agricultural land and would lead to dangerously high salt levels and the potential destruction of farmland. Professor Pells says that should the project continue as planned, 2500 tonnes of salt per year will be sprayed onto the surrounding farmland.

• AGL’s Annual Report claimed that their Hunter Petroleum Exploration Licence had been renewed. It hadn’t and AGL was forced to correct the report when we brought it to their notice.

• AGL breached its Environment Protection Licence at its Camden gas works by failing to monitor air emissions and commited to pay $150,000 to an environment project as a result. AGL was also to pay $10,000 in legal costs. Mike Moraza “deeply regretted the non-compliance”. That helps.
      There is more, much more, see all in Gas Watch 230 .


Thursday, 28 November, 2013. Gas Watch 229. AGL - still spinning the figures.
AGL’s claim: “More than 50% of people in Gloucester and surrounding areas said there were benefits to having AGL Energy operate in the region, a community survey has found.” *

The facts:
• The small print in their media release says that only 200 people in Gloucester were surveyed by telephone in early September.
• The population of Gloucester LGA is 4,877.
• 94 people, or 1.9% of the population, said that thought they would be able to obtain cheaper/cleaner energy. Well good luck with that. Electricity and gas prices are already soaring, the gas price because of the CSG industry entering into the export arena.
• 83 people, or 1.7% of the population, said that there would be employment opportunities.
• 73 people, or 1.5% of the population thought it would bring money into the region.
• 23 people, or 0.5% of the population, reckoned they would see improved infrastructure. Dreaming.
( see all in Gas Watch 229 ).


Monday, 24 November, 2013. Gas Watch 228. AGL - now pumping salt onto agricultural land.
Hullo, AGL! A shandy of fresh water and salt water doesn’t reduce the amount of salt going into the soil. The same amount of salt is still there.

AGL issued a media release last week, crowing that it was irrigating cattle feed crops with salty water from coal seams. AGL says that it is blending good fresh water with salty coal seam water to irrigate its property.
Salty water used for irrigation results in soil salinisation rendering it unfit for raising most crops and plants. And what does the process of increasing the salt content of soil do to the soil? As the soil salinity increases the consequences include:
• Destruction of soil structure;
• Detrimental effects on plant growth and yield. The plants use the water and the salt is left behind;
• Damage to infrastructure (roads, bricks, corrosion of pipes and cables);
• Reduction of water quality for users, sedimentation problems;
• Soil erosion ultimately, when crops are too strongly affected by the amounts of salts.
( see all in Gas Watch 228 ).


Wednesday, 20 November, 2013. Gas Watch 227. AGL - wants land in protected winegrowing regions made available for CSG drilling and fracking.
Santos - agrees that if a farmer says “no” they will go away.

Santos CEO David Knox says that it is important for farmers to be given a choice saying that Santos will not be seeking to drill for coal seam methane gas where landholders say “no”.
“Under this company I operate, if you don’t want me on your land to drill a well, I will not be coming. I will work with farmers who do want me on their land, and I think it’s very important that people are given that choice” he said.
This Santos approach mirrors announcements by Prime Minister Abbott. We hope that Santos does what it says it will do.
AGL, however, takes the opposite approach and has forced itself on the farmers of Gloucester through the Courts.
AGL has also announced that it is seeking that the properties it has bought in the Broke and Bulga wingrowing region be exempted from the protected viticulture Critical Industry Cluster and made available to them for unconventional coal seam methane drilling and fracking. ( see all in Gas Watch 227 ).


Tuesday, 5 November, 2013. Gas Watch 226. The “Size of the Prize” to become the paramount consideration for mining approvals. This week THE NSW government will implement controversial amendments to planning laws to prioritise economic considerations above all social and environmental factors when considering mining and CSG projects.

The Resource Significance SEPP, about to be gazetted, has been rejected out of hand by everyone either involved in agriculture or who cares for our environment, and should be rejected out of hand by anybody who wants to have a secure Australian food supply in the future.

“The changes outline key factors that decision makers must consider when establishing the significance of the mineral resource – namely the benefits that will flow to the economy via local job creation, regional expenditure and State royalties," Minister Hartcher said.

This is an absolute disgrace. It encourages big mining companies to open cut good agricultural land, without community support; without reference to existing agricultural industries, including wine tourism; without reference to environmental or social considerations; without consideration to existing businesses; without considering basic cost benefit analyses ( see all in Gas Watch 226 ).


Thursday, 3 October, 2013. Gas Watch 225. AGL claims: “New gas sources needed to maintain price.”
“This is nothing but industry spin.”
AGL in a press release today makes more outrageous claims in relation to the coal seam methane gas industry.
(See Mike Moraza: "New gas sources needed to maintain price" ).

Amongst other things AGL spins:
1.“Coal seam gas is literally just natural gas drawn directly from coal seams”

WRONG. It is methane gas drawn from coal seams, unconventionally and often using the contoversial fracking technique, through fresh water tables. Released into the environment during the process is Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Formaldehyde, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Oxides of Nitrogen, Particulate matter 10 um and 2.5 um, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

Dr Stuart Khan confirmed in a submission to the NSW parliamentary enquiry into CSG that “drilling through aquifers, impervious rock and coal seam(s) risks “interconnecting” otherwise confined aquifers. In such circumstances, aquifers holding large volumes of pristine water can be contaminated by mixing with other contaminated waters.” ( see more in Gas Watch 225 ).


Friday, 20 September, 2013. Gas Watch 224. AGL attempts to buy community support. AGL should be earning respect, rather than trying to buy it.

• AGL tried to sponsor the Singleton Outstanding Business Awards, but its sponsorship was rightly rejected by the Chamber of Commerce.

• AGL tried to sponsor the hugely attended Broke Village Fair, but AGL was roundly rejected by the community and AGL’s cheque returned to them.

• AGL has somehow bought naming rights for the 2013 Singleton Show this month and it is now, unfortunately, called the “AGL Singleton Show.” A gross embarrassment for the Singleton community.

• AGL Energy is now offering local primary schools cash donations in its efforts to buy community support….Kirkton Primary and Broke Primary we know of, both in the Hunter Valley, both in the CSG exclusion zones.
( see all in Gas Watch 224 ).


Wednesday, 18 September, 2013. Gas Watch 223. Resource Minister Chris Hartcher wants to change the accurate name “unconventional coal seam methane gas” or “CSG” to “natural gas from coal seams”.
Great shades of George Orwell’s 1984.

This is just another O’Farrell Government attempt to dilute the CSG argument and make the CSG industry sound safe.
It’s the same old industry, the same old CSG, same old risks.
Is it true – or is it just a joke from the “Ministry of Truth”?

It is being taken so seriously on Facebook* that it is wondered what other phrases could be changed to improve how they sound, eg:

  • Bank Robbery = inadvertent hostile currency depletion;
  • Car Crash = spontaneous crumple zone evaluation;
  • Coal = natural solid from coal seams;
  • Petrol = natural liquid from oil deposits;
  • Wood = natural solid fuel from old growth heritage forests.
As one contributor says on Facebook – adding “natural” doesn’t make it safe or its extraction environmentally safe. We agree. ( see all in Gas Watch 223 ).


Wednesday, 11 September, 2013. Gas Watch 222. Hunter residents are at serious risk of lung disease and cancer as dust levels reach record levels.
This must be a new record for filthy air in the Hunter.

The residents of the Hunter were forced to breathe filthy air on 1st September at 3 am when the P10 dust particles in the air reached 348.1 micro grams per cubic meter.
And we’re effectively unrepresented by a Government which appears to be waiting for victims to emerge before it acts.
Will you or your children be the first victims? Research says it is only a matter of time. With all the evidence before him, what on earth could Barry O’Farrell say if it does come to this.
This is a physical assault on the people of the Hunter Valley. 100 is considered by the EPA to be Hazardous to the health of humans and animals. 300 is described by medical professionals as “extremely dangerous to lungs and may even cause cancer induction” ( see all in Gas Watch 222 ).


Friday, 6 September, 2013. Gas Watch 221. Everyone now agrees it will happen – All that is now needed is for NSW to enact the law preserving the vineyards from coal seam methane mining.

1. AGL Energy now accepts that CSG activity will be excluded from critical industry clusters.
2. The community has been promised by the O’Farrell Government that these exclusion zones will be made law, and accept that this will happen.
3. The Federal coalition says farmers have the right to say “no.
4. All stakeholders now accept it is going to happen.
Both the community and AGL are now on the same page in relation to having the vineyard areas excluded from CSG activity.
AGL Energy accepted in its financial report released this week that the viticulture and thoroughbred Critical Industry Clusters will be excluded from coal seam methane exploration and mining activity, by slashing its Hunter gas project’s book value from over $200 million to just $10 million ( see all in Gas Watch 221 ).


Tuesday, 27 August, 2013. Gas Watch 220. 100 official “health alerts” for dust levels in the 239 days of this year. For almost half this year the people of the Hunter have been breathing air which is damaging their health.
Again suspicion arises that the coal mines are polluting in the dead of night.

Yesterday the wind was light, the dust during the day was within acceptable levels, even into single digits (5.1 micrograms of P10 dust particles per cubic metre at 2 pm). But in the wee small hours the dust levels went from safe levels to “HAZARDOUS” levels.
3 am – 173.9 micrograms of P10 dust particles per cubic metre (anything over 100 is “hazardous to the health”).
4 am – 109.6., 5 am – 134.2. !!! ( see all in Gas Watch 220 ).


Wednesday, 21 August, 2013. Gas Watch 219. Barry O’Farrell’s new “user pays” democracy.
In an extraordinary move, the man elected to represent the community has instead decided to take them on head first in the Supreme Court, and make them pay for trying to protect the health of themselves, their children and their environment.

Quite unbelievably, Barry O’Farrell has sent in Minister Brad Hazzard to fight on the side of the mines AGAINST the community. That’s right, AGAINST the community which elected him.

In his fight against the residents of the Hunter village of Bulga, Premier Barry has asked Minister Brad to seek a Supreme Court costs order* against those good people.

The people of Bulga took on the mining giant Warkworth Mining (Rio Tinto) in the Land and Environment Court and won, protecting their village from imminent destruction by the dramatic increase in size of the nearby coal mine...

Premier Barry is sending a clear signal to those trying to protect their own children and the environment against potentially catastrophic health effects by making them pay.

It is also clear that if you want democratic representation under this Government, be prepared to pay a financial price for the privilege
( see all in Gas Watch 219 ).


Wednesday, 21 August, 2013. Gas Watch 218. "Abbott backs farmers' right to say NO".
“Miners should not go onto farms if they’re not wanted. It’s very wrong and they shouldn’t be going onto land where the relevant land owners don’t want them.” – Tony Abbott 2/5/13.

We asked Joel Fitzgibbon and Michael Johnsen: “Whilst we are all aware that the State Governments grant Mining Licences and CSG Licences, how do you see a Federal Government legislating to establish a landholder’s right to ay “no”; how would you define farmland; when in the first term of Government would this take place; any available detail as to how such legislation would operate

Johnsen based his response on “CSG is seen as a transitional energy source and is proven to be less emitting of carbon dioxide. It is also potentially more efficient”. Unfortunately Johnsen has obviously not considered the science which says that CSG is likely to be a dirtier fuel than coal and that the CSG industry has underestimated methane leakage from wells by 62,000,000 tonnes over 3 years ( ) and that the huge issue of disposal of contaminated water is unresolved.

Fitzgibbon takes delight in having been wooed by AGL Energy which appears to have convinced him that diluting salt contaminated water and putting that salt contaminated water onto pasture is a good thing. It doesn’t matter how much you dilute it, the salt is still there and must eventually contaminate the ground. This speech was before the knifing of Julia Gillard and before Fitzgibbon was Rudd’s Minister for Agriculture. Perhaps he’s now changed his mind.

Make up your own mind. Not much comfort from either of them. Fortunately the O’Farrell Government has bound itself to legislating CSG exclusion zones in the Hunter Valley and around residential areas in the State, so any reliance on the Federal Government in our area will be somewhat mitigated. ( see all in Gas Watch 218 ).


Tuesday, 20 August, 2013. Gas Watch 217. Government fails to issue “HEALTH ALERTS” when dust pollution exceeds hazardous levels.
What are the coal mines doing in the dead of night?
Are they failing to use proper dust suppression in the dark when noone can see their filthy haze?
Look at these OEH monitoring station results over last 24 hours: • Camberwell - 12 midnight - 172.5 micrograms of dust per cubic metre.
• Maison Dieu near Singleton – 1 pm - 133.4
• Maison Dieu – 2 pm 119.4 (not below 100 between midnight and 2 am)
• Mt. Thorley, near Bulga – 10 pm – 92.

100 micrograms per cubic metre is defined by the Government as “Hazardous”. No health alerts were issued this morning because the “rolling average” didn’t reach dangerous levels, although individual readings were hazardous to the health of humans and animals. That’s now three days and nights in a row we have been breathing in dust which could be doing irreversible damage to our lungs and the developing lungs of our kids.

Mines should have an automatic shut down procedure when dust levels reach the “poor” level of 50. They must never be allowed to reach the “hazardous” level of over 100.
Monitoring is just not good enough. Action must be taken NOW to preserve our health
( see all in Gas Watch 217 ).


Sunday, 18 August, 2013. Gas Watch 216. “HEALTH ALERTS” ISSUED FOR THE HUNTER.
Hunter Valley residents breathe dangerous levels of dust – two days in a row.
On 17th August and 18th August, 2013 the Department of Environment and Heritage issued “health alerts”.
The P10 dust levels today reached 60.7 micrograms per cubic metre at 7 am.
97.8 micrograms per cubic metre was measured yesterday at 6 am – a health hazard.

The Department says that anything between 75 and 100 is very poor and that 100+ is hazardous to the health.

The Hunter has reached 300 at times – a level which can damage the lungs and which is cancer inducing.

And this in an environment where the O’Farrell Government wants tor...( see all in Gas Watch 216 ).


Friday, 16 August, 2013. Gas Watch 215. Environmentally dangerous mining versus established, clean and responsible farming and tourism.
AGL Energy seeks to ruin the Hunter Valley wine industry with its unsustainable Coal Seam Methane mining
Margan Family Wines at Broke in the Hunter takes out Gold for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism and Gold for Excellence in Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Boutique Breweries at Hunter & Central Coast Tourism Awards 2013 this week

We have the wine industry working successfully at sustainability, and continuing its 200 year old tradition.

On the other hand we have AGL Energy which has been found to regularly breach its environmental obligations – air pollution; ground pollution; failing to monitor emissions; fail to report; and more.

Unconventional coal seam methane miners are putting extreme pressure on the O’Farrell Government to give them 21 years of methane extraction from under the vineyards, from which the wine industry, including the wine tourism industry, and the environment may never recover...( see all in Gas Watch 215 ).


Thursday, 1 August, 2013. Gas Watch 214. All important to the O’Farrell Government and the mining companies is: The size of the prize.
The “significant of the resource” draft SEPP makes the SIZE OF THE PRIZE the “principal consideration” in granting mining licences for coal or methane gas.
The bigger the mine the better.
The more damage done to agriculture, the happier this Government will be.

Minister Hartcher says this will “improve investor confidence” in the mining industry.

BUT it will destroy investment and confidence in the agriculture sector.

This Government, both pre and post election has promised that there will be no coal seam methane gas activity in the vineyards ( see all in Gas Watch 214 ).


Tuesday, 30 July, 2013. Gas Watch 213. Let Australia starve.
O’Farrell Government declares coal and methane gas more important than food and water
Minister Hartcher promotes fossil fuel mining over agriculture.
Hartcher sells out to the mining industry.
Let Australia be reliant on other countries to source its food.
Let mining companies reap their riches.
That is what this SEPP is saying.

There is nothing in the Draft Mining and Gas SEPP released yesterday by Minister Hartcher to require a mining proposal to even consider other industries near a “significant resource”. And “significant resource” isn’t even defined. Clearly the mining companies have been in the Government’s ear, and the Government has succumbed to their pressure heralding the end of any security in agriculture. Towns, villages and farms, under this SEPP, must play second fiddle to a “significant resource”. Agricultural industries, including the 200 year old wine industry and its associated tourist industry, face extinction ( see all in Gas Watch 213 ).


Thursday, 25 July, 2013. Gas Watch 212. Mining Industry claims of co-existence rebutted by Bulga Coal.
Bulga Coal’s own Environmental Impact Statement contradicts the official advertising blitz of “World Class Miners” and the Minerals Council

“World Class Miners” and the Minerals Council loosely claim that “research (unquoted) and the experience of Bob (Kennedy) and other grape growers (unidentified) shows that it is possible for mining and farming to work together”.
1. Bulga Coal disagrees.
2. Xstrata says that not all mining and agricultural relationships work.
( see all in Gas Watch 212 ).


Tuesday, 23 July, 2013. Gas Watch 211. Xstrata hides behind the Minerals Council’s false, deceptive and misleading advertising.

Xstrata admits that not all mining/agriculture relationships work.

Withdraw merely the headline of the current official advertising Blitz where it is claimed that Xstrata’s Bulga Underground coal mine is “now producing wine” we asked Glencore Xstrata. The headline is, of course, a lie. The mine is producing coal. The vineyard above the mine is producing grapes.

The headline of this political advertisement is both false, deceptive and misleading – we told Xstrata. We asked for confirmation that it wouldn’t be used again. Xstrata responded to say that they had a good working relationship with one specific neighbouring vineyard owner, but “There is no suggestion that these experiences reflect all relationships between mining and other land users” ( see all in Gas Watch 211 ).


Monday, 22 July, 2013. Gas Watch 210. Mining industry hits new low: Major official ad campaign based on lies and politics.

A little known group called “World Class Miners” has co-opted an even lesser known grape grower in the Hunter Valley in a failed attempt to show that grape growing and coal mining can co-exist.

A major official advertising blitz in all media, including major national press, social media and more, has clearly been timed to coincide with the hearing of the appeal by Rio Tinto against the decision of the Land & Environment Court to save the town of Bulga from destruction by open cut mine extensions.

The advertising blitz – no doubt costing tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars - is peppered with lies and omissions and highlights the desperate measures being undertaken by the Mining Industry in its fight against the community
( see all in Gas Watch 210 ).


Tuesday, 9 July, 2013. USA: Fugitive Gases in Water Wells Near Shale Gas Sites
This new American scientific study casts considerable doubts on the universal assertions of the gas industry that large scale hydraulic fracturing cannot contaminate surface fresh water aquifers. The industry says that the surface water and their gas production fracking zones are separated by hundreds of meters of "impenetrable" geological strata. Any contamination of the drinking water by fugitive gasses or toxic fracking chemicals is, therefore, impossible.
It should be noted that this study analysed the results from the Pennsylvanian shale gas deposits which are typically located in the depths of several kilometers. Australian coal seam gas strata are usually only several hundred meters deep and thus the chance of the biosphere contamination is much greater. THOSE IMPENETRABLE BARRIERS MAY NOT BE SO IMPENETRABLE AFTER ALL! ( see more in our Research Archives ).

Friday, 5 July, 2013. Gas Watch 209. AGL’s “gas supply crisis” simply a lot of hot air.
AGL’s efforts to scare the O'Farrell Govt into relaxing CSG laws revealed by The Australia Institute to be nonsense..

Senior economist at The Australia Institute, Matt Grudnoff, says in relation to proposed increases in wholesale gas prices, that:

- “the increase is linked to plans to sell gas from eastern Australia overseas.”

- “It’s not the lack of supply that is going to drive up gas prices. It’s the introduction of CSG as a new form of supply.”

- “Many in the gas industry would like us to believe that public opposition to CSG is the reason for the impending price increases. But it’s the determination of the gas industry to sell to the highest bidder.”

( see all in Gas Watch 209 ).


Thursday, 4 July, 2013. Gas Watch 208. O'Farrell Govt “endorses” CSG exclusions in February ... now sits on its hands !!
Despite cabinet "endorsing" the exclusion of important zones from coal seam gas activity nearly six months ago, it has failed to act on its promise.

The Hunter's been waiting long enough and needs to get back to business, and the only way is to put pressure back onto the Government to come good and start acting on behalf of the community, not big mining companies ( see all in Gas Watch 208 ).


Friday, 28 June, 2013. Gas Watch 207. O’Farrell snubs community but gets cosy with AGL.
The Premier of NSW has openly snubbed urgent requests for community discussions, but within hours of news being released is happy to privately meet with multinational corporates such as AGL, who are trying to profit from changes to CSG laws.

Within a few days of the Premier announcing exclusion zones from CSG mining, the head of AGL was sitting in the Premier’s office to talk about it. We, the community, have been trying to speak directly with the Premier ever since. On 31st May the Premier’s secretary wrote and told us that the Premier has “declined our meeting request” – refused to see us ( see all in Gas Watch 207 ).


Tuesday, 11 June, 2013. Gas Watch 206. Government sides against community to rush through legislation by stealth.
Important amendments to CSG law were stealthily rushed through and passed without amendment in less than a week in a move that signals the Government is now unashamedly in bed with the CSG mining lobby – and actively against its electors and the community.

On 22nd May, 2013, Minister Hartcher introduced CSG law amendments. It was pushed through and passed without amendment on 28th May. Some sort of a record??
Minister Hartcher’s second reading speech could well have been written by the coal seam methane miners *.
Why has the Government been covert in passing this legislation?
Why was the CSG mining industry consulted, but not the community?

The Government has clearly been brainwashed by the CSG industry. The CSG industry has been able to readily access Premier O’Farrell, but despite representations through local member George Souris, the community has been denied equal time.

The Government wants no debate on what is arguably the most contentious industry in the country – coal seam methane gas mining.

The opportunity for the Government to enshrine into law its pre-election promises to permanently protect critical industries and environmentally sensitive areas has been lost.

The proposed new Petroleum (Onshore) Act concentrates on convincing us that the CSG industry will be punished for breaches, but omits to address important issues ( see all in Gas Watch 206 ).


Friday, 26 April, 2013. Gas Watch 205. Confusion over Interim Coal Seam Gas Protocol.
This week the NSW Government issued its Interim Protocol that appeared to provide for removal of some land from the promised CSG exclusion zones.

Whilst the wording of the protocol is very confusing, when read with the announcements of Premier O’Farrell, and others, it appears abundantly clear:
• that there will be no interference with the Critical Industry Clusters – neither equine nor viticulture;
• that there will be no lands within those clusters excised from exclusion;
• that there will be no “swiss cheese” approach to the current critical Industry Cluster mapping.

“A two kilometre exclusion zone will be imposed around residential zones to prevent new CSG exploration, assessment and production activities (both surface and underground); Exclusion zones will apply to identified Critical Industry Clusters – viticulture and the equine industry”. “These exclusion zones will apply to any CSG activity that has not yet been approved under the EP&A Act or the Petroleum (Onshore) Act.”– Barry O‘Farrell Media Release 19/2/2013.

But are these exclusions for real ( see all in Gas Watch 205 )?


Friday, 12 April, 2013. Gas Watch 204 AGL’s claim of a “gas supply crisis” is nonsense.
Just another desperate attempt by AGL to panic the people and the Government into accepting that this filthy, fossil fuel is necessary.
What gas supply “crisis?
See Gas Watch 204

Australia is exporting gas in almost identical amounts to the Country’s actual consumption. There’s oodles there for everybody. Australia’s consumption has been dropping since 2007 and is back to 2004 levels. And don’t think that the export won’t continue. That is where this CSG will go, and that is where the money is for these coal seam methane miners.

AGL is treating us all, people, local Government and State Government with the utmost contempt, attempting to fool us into believing that there is this “gas supply crisis”, a phrase they have only recently manufactured.

And as recently as today AGL has announced in the local press further drilling in the proposed vineyard critical industry cluster exclusion zone. The methane miners simply can’t be trusted with the truth ( see all in Gas Watch 204 ).


Friday, 12 April, 2013. Gas Watch 203. Hunter Valley Council continues strong support of its community against the CSG mining in the Singleton Shire.
AGL, claimed at this week’s CSG Industry Conference that there is a “gas supply crisis” – a new phrase made up by APPEA in only February of this year.

Clearly AGL has failed in its efforts to produce evidence to the community and all levels of Government that CSG mining is safe, and is thus trying a new tack to panic the O’Farrell Government into reversing its decision to protect residential zones and to protect critical agricultural and associated industries from the ravages of coal seam methane mining.

This of course flies in the face of the real facts, and that is that there is plenty of gas available for NSW. Just ask BHP! And of course, there appears to be no doubt that much of any mined coal seam methane will be exported. ( see all in Gas Watch 203 ).


Monday, 8 April, 2013. Gas Watch 202. Hunter Valley Council continues strong support of its community against the CSG mining in the Singleton Shire.
AGL ignores Community, local Council and State Government and keeps on drilling
“There appears to be evidence that (environmental) impact could be significant and irreversible.”
“There appears to be serious risk of significant environmental impacts”

These statements, made in a report to Singleton Council, were adopted by the Council tonight when it debated the content of its submission to the Government in response to the Draft State Environmental Plan setting out the coal seam gas exclusion zones.
“Councils are specifically requested to identify villages which meet the defined village criteria so they can be included as residential land” and therefore fall within the exclusion zones contemplated by the SEPP ( see all in Gas Watch 202 ).


Tuesday, 2 April, 2013. Gas Watch 201. AGL fails to follow other coal seam methane miners in saving their shareholders’ money.

Based on “market conditions and shareholder feedback”, Dart Energy has announced to the Stock Exchange that it will suspend field operations in relation to CSG in NSW, including that at Fullerton Cove, where Dart Energy recently had a win in the Land and Environment Court against the Fullerton Cove community.

Another methane miner, Metagasco, has suspended its coal seam methane drilling in the northern rivers. Metagasco CEO said he “could not keep spending shareholders' money in the current political climate”.

These companies have clearly made their decision, notwithstanding that they are not operating in a Critical Industry Cluster exclusion area, in the interests of their respective shareholders.

AGL is operating in a CSG exclusion zone, but in its usual display of arrogance continues to drill through the fresh water aquifers into unknown geological formations below with all the attendant risks. ( see all in Gas Watch 201 ).


Tuesday, 2 April, 2013. Gas Watch 200. AGL takes another step in its destruction of the Hunter Valley.

A photograph of the drilling site at Yellow Rock(below) near the Hunter Valley vineyard village ofBroke, shows the first step in what AGL plan s to be a spiderweb of roads, pipes, drilling pads and coal seam methane wells in the vineyards of the Hunter Valley.

And AGL is just about to commence similar drilling at a nearbysite which has clearly not been adequately geologically researched. The approving Department merely accepts the unsubstantiated, one paragraph of claims by AGL that it is unlikely there will be any problems, instead of requiring thorough independent geological examination.

For example, under AGL’s next drilling site there is complex geology, including a well known fault in the earth’s crust called the “Redmanvale Fault”, under which there was a 2.8 earthqua ke in April,last year, and over which there is a substantial fresh water aquifer ... ( see all in Gas Watch 200 ).




There is no end to the despicable depths to which AGL Energy will stoop. Parents should be urged not to allow AGL’s spin doctors to play with our children’s fertile minds. Fast food companies and all other contentious advertising are subject to significant regulation when it comes to schools. This is the most cynical form of advertising possible, as it is being done by stealth.

AGL just brought 120 children by bus from Muswellbrook High school, during school hours, to look at its drilling rig at Broke, brainwashing them with AGL propaganda that a coal seam methane well is just an insignificant piece of machinery that won’t hurt the environment, our waterways, our health, our productive soil, our lifestyles and our property values. Proven lies. ( see all in Gas Watch 199 ). See alse a copy of a report in the Newcastle Herald.



Today, AGL said they had not even read the public consultation draft. In an extraordinary, but predictable, display of ignorance and arrogance, AGL called a meeting today to discuss their CSG drilling in the Hunter Vineyards, revealing that they hadn’t even read the public consultation draft SEPP banning CSG in the vineyards. “Haven’t had time” said the AGL Community Relations person, Alison Croker. Astonishing! Probably the most important document that has ever been published in relation to AGL’s coal seam methane drilling in the Hunter, and they hadn’t made the time to read it...( see all in Gas Watch 198 ).


Monday, 4 March, 2013. Gas Watch 197. AGL: "We own it (the land), so could we drill on it?”

In another display of arrogance and complete disregard for the local community, AGL is reported to have asked today: “We own it (the land), so could we drill on it?”

Well, according to the O’Farrell announcements, the answer is a resounding “No”. The community of the Hunter Valley does not want AGL setting up gas fields and has been actively opposing this since 2004. It’s time AGL faced up to its lack of support by both the community and now the Government, and just went away from the Hunter.

The O’Farrell Government is to be applauded for listening to the community and for taking steps to save the environment and the iconic vineyards of the Hunter Valley, honouring its pre-election promises.

The community is so opposed to AGL turning the Hunter Valley into a gas field that AGL has had to buy large tracts of land in the Broke and Bulga vineyard areas because landholders won’t give them access to their land. ( see all in Gas Watch 197 ).



“AGL intends to continue with its exploration activities, including drilling a number of core holes on AGL owned property and private land in the Broke and Bulga area, for which approvals are in place.” – so says the Community Relations Manager – Hunter (Alison Crocker – email 26/2/2013).

AGL has elected to completely ignore Premier O’Farrell’s announcements. You would think that AGL’s methane mining arm would have great difficulty in justifying this behaviour to its Board and its Shareholders.

Premier O’Farrell made it very clear in his recent Press Release that “Critical Industry Clusters identified under the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans – horse breeders and wine producers will also be excluded from CSG activities”.

George Souris, Member for the Upper Hunter has also made it very clear: “There won't be CSG development where no DA's have been approved, effectively taking out viticulture and equine CICs and 2km from residential zoning.” ( see all in Gas Watch 196 ).


Monday, 25 February, 2013. Gas Watch 195. AGL takes on the Government. AGL has clearly refused to accept Premier O’Farrell’s exclusion of the Hunter Vineyards from CSG exploration. And continues its drilling program.

AGL today sent out invitations to “small, by-invite-only gatherings” to “peek” at “one of our operational sites” in Broke. What is it that AGL doesn’t get?

Premier O’Farrell has made it clear now, on more than one occasion, that no CSG projects will be approved in the winegrowing/tourism Critical Industry Cluster in the Hunter Valley. The Premier has made it abundantly clear that Broke, in particular, will be saved. This has been confirmed by Member for the Upper Hunter, George Souris.

AGL has no social licence to operate in the Broke and Bulga communities. ( see all in Gas Watch 195 ).


Monday, 25 February, 2013. Gas Watch 194. AGL attempts to create gas price panic.

AGL, clutching at straws and claiming a possible increase in gas prices in the future, tries to panic the NSW Government into reversing its decision to exclude sensitive areas from CGS extraction. The Australian Petroleum Production and Export Association, APPEA, has weighed in with similar panic statements such as the newly made up phrase - “gas supply crisis”.

Will these people stop at nothing to keep their share price up at huge environmental cost? They claim that the cost of gas will rise because we will have to import it from interstate. Give us a break. 95% of our gas comes from interstate now, so how is there going to be a price effect? And you can rest assured that the majority of coal seam methane sucked out by the CSG miners will go straight overseas. ( see all in Gas Watch 194 ).

Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism industry excluded from Community Consultation Committee.

No representative of Hunter Wines or Tourism will be permitted to attend the next Hunter Community Consultative Committee meeting.

This is a Committee set up to facilitate consultation between AGL and the local community. The regular representative gave the chair some weeks notice that he couldn’t attend the March meeting and asked that a substitute attend on his behalf. The Chair, who has a discretion to allow observers and guests to attend and either take part in the meeting or not, has refused. ( see all in Gas Watch 194 ).


Tuesday, 19 February, 2013. Gas Watch 193. Hunter Wine Industry applauds exclusion of Hunter Wine Country from coal seam gas activity.

Today’s announcement by the O’Farrell Government that the Hunter Vineyards are to be excluded from CSG activities honours the pre-election promises of the O’Farrell Government, and was received warmly by the people of the Hunter.

The devil is always in the detail, however, and we await expectantly for that detail. The exclusion area is shown in the Strategic Land Use Plan entitled “Strategic Agricultural Lands (Viticulture)” and you can find a copy of the map at

What we now require is to take this from being announcements to being LAW. Not a simple State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) but law – strong, irrevocable legislation similar to the Character Preservation (McLaren Vale) and (Barossa Valley) Acts in South Australia.

And we need that law to be in place before the Federal election on 14th September, 2013, or it may never happen( see all in Gas Watch 193 ).



Tonight, Singleton Council unanimously rejected an application by AGL Energy to access Council road reserves for its coal seam methane exploration.

The packed public gallery burst into applause when Councillors resolved not only to refuse AGL’s access to road reserves for seismic CSG exploration, but to reaffirm Council’s objection to all CSG activities in the Singleton LGA.

In yet another display of arrogance, AGL didn’t even turn up to support their application, notice of which they not give to the community

( see all in Gas Watch 192 ).


Wednesday, 13 February, 2013. Gas Watch 191. AGL to risk 200 years of sustainable industry, and its future, for less than 5 years methane extraction.

AGL would produce coal seam methane in the Hunter for a mere 4.73 years.

That’s the big prize for risking the fragile environment of the Hunter forever.

And the Government has washed its hands of all responsibility. During those 4.73 years the Hunter Valley Wine Industry could be devastated, wiped out, through fresh water contamination and the salt contamination of the highly productive soil from disposal of contaminated coal seam water.

The Hunter Valley Wine Industry is a sustainable industry with nearly 200 years of history, with another 200 years or more left in it, and attracts a burgeoning tourism industry. AGL today boasts that there are probable reserves of 669 petajoules of methane at Gloucester and “just” 142Pj in the Hunter Valley, and that it would produce about 30Pj per year.

Well, let’s do the sums. If, and that’s a big if, there is 142Pj in the Hunter, then the coal seam methane in the Hunter will be finished in 4.73 years ( see all in Gas Watch 191 ).


Tuesday, 12 February, 2013. Gas Watch 190. Just when you thought the Federal Government had grown an environmental backbone – it approves the Gloucester CSG project!.

One day Federal Environment Minister Burke slams the O’Farrell Government for its slack approach to CSG.

The next day Burke aids and abets AGL in its environmental destruction of prime agricultural land around Gloucester – although today Burke described his approval as a “Clayton’s approval”, an approval you give when you are not really giving an approval?? Looks like he has done this simply to punish the O’Farrell Government for its slack environmental laws in relation to CSG.

The GM of Methane Mining for AGL, Mike Moraza, gave evidence before a Senate enquiry that AGL would not force entry onto any land: “There is a lot of country out there that can be explored and we would move on.” (Hansard) – yet in complete opposition to that evidence AGL has now been successful in Court, forcing 110 gas wells on the people of Gloucester.

But the likes of AGL never reveal the final scope of their whole CSG project. Who knows, we could end up with thousands of wells anywhere from Merriwa to Newcastle ( see all in Gas Watch 190 ).



This Company HAS NEVER BEEN MORE ACTIVE THAN IT IS, NOW, IN THE HUNTER VALLEY, and is ramping up to launch its fracking in the region.

IS IT ALREADY TOO LATE TO SAVE THE HUNTER WINE INDUSTRY, with fracking exploration wells in the vineyards about to commence? ( see all in Gas Watch 189 ).



The NSW Government has drafted laws which give no effective protection to even one square metre of this State, and which fly in the face of the recommendations of its own Stakeholder Reference Group.

As a result AGL Energy has already announced that this year it will be fracking coal seams in the Hunter Valley vineyards, even though it is concerned with the fracking technique it appears to now have abandoned in its Camden Gas fields.

This month AGL is drilling core holes through fresh water aquifers and hundreds of metres down into the salty, contaminated coal seams below, risking the fresh water of the Hunter Valley.

“The O’Farrell Government seems either incompetent, or unwilling, to properly address the effective control of the CSG industry and refuses to accept that CSG extraction and sustainable agriculture cannot co-exist.” said Stewart Ewen, the Chair of the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance ( see all in Gas Watch 188 ).



An AGL company mouthpiece went on record last week complaining that this Alliance broadcast “misinformation” and that we had never produced one fact to support any of our allegations about the behaviour of AGL in its coal seam methane mining activities.

So here we go again. Wouldn’t it be much more simple for them to admit they have breached some conditions in the past and perhaps say what they are doing to prevent them in the future. But no, we have to waste our time digging out the facts that they deny ever happened. Here, just briefly, are just some of those facts again:

FACT 1. During August, 2010 AGL, in the course of its exploration for coal seam methane in the Hunter, AGL dumped an alleged 300,000 litres of salty contaminated water onto pasture, killing the pasture. AGL admitted to 110,000 litres, and was ordered to remediate the site. The NSW Ombudsman said: “it appears to me that AGL breached their licence conditions by discharging the contaminated water” (NSW Ombudsman ref: C/2010/7463).

FACT 2. In July, 2011 AGL was issued with a “formal warning” by the Government following a blowout of a methane well near Campbelltown caused by incorrect operation of the well.

FACT 3. AGL failed “to comply with the Licence conditions in both of its Petroleum Exploration Licences affecting the Hunter Valley Wine Country (Report on Audit of Coal and Petroleum Exploration Licences in NSW – Phase 2).

( see all in Gas Watch 187 ).



When will the O’Farrell Government and the Minister for Tourism and Member for the Upper Hunter, George Souris, realise that they must protect the world acclaimed Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism industry from disappearing into a coal seam methane gas field, and work with the local wine and food producers rather than against them?

When will AGL Energy see the light and realise that the Hunter Valley cannot afford the health and environmental risks of developing a coal seam methane gas field in the vineyards?

South Australia is proud of their new laws protecting the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. O’Farrell and Souris must be ashamed of their own treatment of the Hunter Valley as a fossil fuel quarry ( see all in Gas Watch 186 ).


Thursday, 17 January, 2013. Gas Watch 185. AGL Energy’s fraccing about turn in Sydney doesn’t surprise the Hunter Valley community.

It’s typical of AGL’s treatment of the general public in the Hunter where AGL is clearly experimenting with coal seam methane exploration and using the Hunter as its guinea pig.

AGL, which has announced that it will be fraccing coal seams in the vineyard area of the Hunter Valley during 2013, declared at a local public meeting that it would not drill for coal seam methane in the Milbrodale Valley in the Hunter because that area was affected by the Bulga-Inlet fault line, a serious and well documented fault line.

But, predictably, AGL has now changed its mind and has obtained approval to drill a core hole in Milbrodale, stating in its Review of Environmental Factors that it “can safely drill within 200 metres of the Bulga-Inlet fault line”. No scientific support for this from any geologist. AGL has simply changed its mind and convinced the Government that it must have been wrong when it earlier accepted the dangers of drilling in the Milbrodale Valley ( see all in Gas Watch 185 ).


Sunday, 13 January, 2013. Gas Watch 184. AGL Energy’s feeble and failed attempt at preparing the newly required Agricultural Impact Statement makes a mockery of the Government’s recently claimed protection of strategic agricultural land.

AGL lodged an “Agricultural Impact Statement” with the State Government, as it is required to do, in support of its application for approval to drill through the upper fresh water aquifers into the coal seam a kilometre or so under the earth’s crust.

These Agricultural Impact Statements are now a requirement, so that the Government can see what impact coal seam methane miners will have on existing agriculture. But there is no point in anyone preparing one at all if they aren’t accurate.

AGL’s Agricultural Impact Statement (AIS) supporting its drilling at Milbrodale in the Hunter Valley is so flawed as to be useless. AGL is just ticking the boxes rather than having a serious attempt at identifying impacts on existing agriculture. The Manager of AGL’s coal seam methane mining said he didn’t even know that there was an organic vineyard within 500 metres of the drilling site.

On 31st December, 2012 we wrote to the Minister regarding the quality of the AIS asking that the approval for the drilling be stayed until the AIS addresses all agricultural issues. We have had no response. A copy of our letter can be found at The Government is probably asking AGL what it wants them to say ( see all in Gas Watch 184 ).


Thursday 10 January, 2013. Gas Watch 183. AGL Energy’s contribution to the Hunter Valley during 2012 – Happy New Year.

Of course there’s plenty more than that which is set out below, but thanks AGL for ruining our 2012, for ruining our Hunter Valley, for ruining our environment, for ruining our beautiful area, for ruining our property values and our businesses, and for ruining our rural lifestyles.

We just hope when it comes around for AGL to seek production licences that the Government lives up to its firm promises and saves the Hunter from your pillaging. Here’s some of AGL’s contribution to the Hunter Valley during 2012: ( see all in Gas Watch 183 ).


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