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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Santos’ actions not ‘surprising’ say campaigners

New documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal an energy company attempted to lobby the Australian Government to subsidise a pipeline that would enable its controversial Narrabri gas project to go ahead.

And, the findings have not surprised Upper Hunter councillor Sue Abbott or Quirindi farmer Annette Wallis, who both objected to the Santos-driven project.

The email records, from within the National COVID-19 Commission, show as early as May 2020 the oil and gas producer told the federal government it would “support sensible policies that … provide low-cost financing for investment in ‘missing pipeline links’ on an open access, regulated basis (eg Wallumbilla-Narrabri-Newcastle)”.

It also suggested “this could be through government or private investment with NBN Co and NAIF being examples of each”.

Scone-based Mrs Abbott, whose region would be impacted by the proposed Queensland-Hunter gas pipeline, said Santos’ request was not unexpected “given the commonwealth government’s well-known and heavily-criticised plan to waste taxpayer money on polluting gas projects”.

“This is yet another example of a fossil fuel company sticking out its hand for taxpayer money because it cannot make a project pay for itself,” she explained.

“This would be a dreadful way to spend public money.

“Building a gas pipeline through the Upper Hunter would destroy agricultural land and horse studs – the region is a world-renowned equine cluster.

“At the end of the day, it’s likely to cause the same damage and pollution pipelines have already caused elsewhere around the world, and it’s ultimately likely to lead to expensive court battles.

“Building this pipeline, let alone subsidising it, is poor practice for people’s health and wellbeing. 

“It is well and truly time we moved away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.

“This federal government’s intransigence is just unbelievable.”

Mrs Wallis added it was “totally arrogant of Santos” to suggest taxpayer money should be spent on damaging gas pipelines that would upend many farmers’ operations.

“Rather than handing out public cash to gas companies, let’s see the government make it easier for farmers to build on their current land management practises, reduce their methane production and work towards their farms being carbon neutral for the benefit of the environment,” she said.

“COVID-19, drought and tension with China has shown how important our primary sector is.

“It’s high time for the government to invest in the hand that feeds the table, rather than short-term destructive gas projects.”

Last month, a community group labelled the Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord launched a court challenge against Santos’ $3.6 billion project, declaring a self-regulating panel failed to consider its climate impacts when approving the development.

The action was unveiled by a not-for-profit legal firm, the Environmental Defenders Office, on behalf of about 100 residents and farmers from the small town, located about 110 kilometres south of Narrabri.

The locals claim the NSW Independent Planning Commission did not take into account the influence of greenhouse emissions, as well as the environmental effects of the gas pipeline needed for it to prevail.