Friday, 7 September 2012

Court interrupts Fullerton Cove drilling

Fullerton Cove NSW courtesy of Callum Rigby
A COURT has ordered Dart Energy to temporarily halt test drilling for coal seam gas (CSG) at Fullerton Cove, near Newcastle, but the energy firm says it may still be able to keep to its timetable. Fullerton Cove residents applied to the Land and Environment Court for a temporary injunction to stop drilling at the site as they prepare for a court battle in which they will try to have the project spiked altogether.

Justice Terry Sheahan on Wednesday partially granted the injunction, restraining Dart from any development beyond site preparation and drilling compound construction.
He ordered that the case be expedited.

Drew Hutton, president of the protesters' Lock the Gate Alliance, told AAP the partial victory would delay substantial works at the site for months.
"They can't do any of the real work on that property," he said.

"It's going nowhere fast."
The case is expected to be heard at the end of September.

Dart Energy Australia chief executive Robbert de Weijer said the company would continue preparatory work at Fullerton Cove and could stay on timetable.
"Should Dart be successful at the hearing, our existing drilling timetable following completion of surface works can be maintained," Mr de Weijer said in a statement.

"Natural gas is a low-emission alternative to coal-generated power, and this project offers the community potential benefits in terms of jobs, business activity and reducing the pressure on rising energy prices for households," he said.
Locals and anti-CSG groups had been blockading a road to the site until last week, when their protest was broken up by police.

In his judgment, Justice Sheahan acknowledged an "urgent need for gas exploration in NSW, leading, hopefully, to gas production" but said the Fullerton Cove protesters' case deserved to be heard.
"I cannot agree that the applicant's case is 'hopeless', or that it involves only sterile or academic legal questions," he said.

"I think there are among all the nuances put to the court some serious issues to be tried, beyond what does resemble some trawling of Dart's long and technical assessment documentation for possible shortcomings."
Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group spokesman Justin Hamilton said the ruling would bolster other anti-CSG efforts in the state.

"It sends a strong message to coal-seam-gas companies that communities are prepared to stand up for their land and water and expose planning loopholes which favour mining over people and environment," he said in a statement.
"We hope that Dart Energy will now reassess their plans for our area and voluntarily withdraw from the exploration licence entirely."

He called on Premier Barry O'Farrell to cancel the company's exploration licence if this did not happen.
From: AAP

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