The drilling continues....
AGL drilling to go on in Hunter
5/06/2009 5:36:00 AM
BOB KENNEDY'S five-bedroom house dropped 1.8 metres over six days when mining company Xstrata Coal moved into a seam under his 40-hectare vineyard near Broke in the Hunter Valley, but he is more worried about whether the nearby brook will keep bubbling.
He and fellow producers are concerned that the gas company AGL Energy's drilling will interfere with the purity and flow of subterranean aquifers which feed the area's agricultural lifeblood, the Wollombi Brook.
The people of the Broke Fordwich Winegrowers Association area have asked AGL to excise the 26 square kilometres that is home to 25 wine labels from the company's large exploration area.
"We market this part of the world as the tranquil side of the Hunter, because it really is unspoilt. Sydney Gas said there could be over 300 wells in our valley. We are concerned about the ambience and turning it into an industrial-type site," said Mr Kennedy, from the 400-member Hunter Valley Protection Alliance.
However, AGL, which recently paid $171 million to buy out its partner in Hunter exploration, Sydney Gas, intends to keep drilling, according to its group general manager of upstream gas, Michael Moraza.
(given that the asset - the gas - is estimated to be worth $10 billion at todays prices that's not a bad deal - SQ)
"Our intention is not to excise this area and we are not prepared to give any such undertaking to the community," he said.
Mr Kennedy says this makes the coal company and the laws which govern it look comparatively good.
AGL, armed with its exploration permits, Mr Kennedy says, has produced mainly "spin" in dealing with locals concerned about exploration drill holes disturbing coal bed methane gas close to Broke Public School, the effect on the water table and the prospect of a future gas plant.
Gloucester Council and its Hunter neighbours successfully put a motion to the Shires Association of NSW conference in Sydney this week calling on the Rees Government to forbid mining or exploration within scenic protection and urban and rural residential zones.
The motion said there should be special protection for agriculture and water, and environmental impact should be counted above economic benefit to the state when considering gas and coal extraction.
(any bets on their chance of succeeding? - SQ)
Any environmental impact of gas drilling around Broke would be minimal and transitory, Mr Moraza said. AGL has hired an independent consultant and project manager to deal with community concerns.