Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends were outside NSW Parliament yesterday handing out information about the 12 expired Petroleum Exploration Licences, the so-called Zombie PELs.
Meanwhile in the parliament Independent Justin Field gave the second reading of his speech on his bill to cancel these licences, which have the potential to expand the coal seam gas industry from the Upper Hunter to the Queensland border. This bill is expected to be debated next Wednesday.
These PELs have been hanging over the heads of communities across the North West for far too long.
Sydney Knitting Nannas call on MPs of all parties to vote in favour of the bill in the interests of their communities and the prevention of environmental disaster.
Why is this happening now?
The Santos Narrabri Gas Project of 850 gas wells was given conditional approval by the Independent Planning Commission in September last year. If the expired licences are resuscitated by the NSW government, Santos and other gas companies will resume exploration to expand gas mining and turn the North West into an industrialised wasteland.
Moves by gas companies to reactivate the PELs are also a response to the federal government sinking billions of taxpayer dollars into five new gas fields across the country. The entire Gunnedah Basin, where the Narrabri Gas Project is located, is one of the Morrison government’s gas expansion targets.
A test for the NSW Nationals
Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW Nationals, John Barilaro, has announced his intention to extinguish some of the PELs but to allow some of them to be reactivated.
There is strong opposition to gas mining in all the electorates covered by the zombie PELs. The electorates include the Nationals-held ones of Northern Tablelands, Tamworth and Dubbo.
Gas mining and the PELS are live issues in the May 22nd by-election in the Upper Hunter, held by the Nationals for many decades but now a marginal seat. Voters may well decide to favour forward-looking candidates who prefer a just transition to renewables over fossil fuel dinosaurs and zombies.