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Plibersek quietly gives Santos green light to drill 116 new Queensland gas wells

Santos has quietly been granted federal environmental approval to drill 116 new coal seam gas wells in Queensland.

Feb 22, 2023, updated Feb 22, 2023
Santos will start the search for more gas in the Surat and Bowen basins.

Santos will start the search for more gas in the Surat and Bowen basins.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s department on Friday gave the green light for fossil fuel producer Towrie’s project in the Arcadia Valley, about 500 kilometres northwest of Brisbane.

The approval of 116 new wells, which will produce coal seam gas from the Surat Basin for 30 years and be linked to the Santos-owned GLNG gas export project in central Queensland, wasn’t widely publicised.

Deputy Greens leader Senator Mehreen Faruqi slammed the approval, saying Labor’s climate change credibility was in tatters and talks on an emissions safeguard mechanism were in question.

“Gas is as dirty as coal, we’re in the middle of a climate crisis and Tanya Plibersek needs to explain why Labor is approving new gas fracking until 2077,” Faruqi said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Labor seems desperate to open up new coal and gas while they can. The Greens will continue negotiations, but Labor seems to want new coal and gas mines more than they want their safeguard mechanism.”

Environmental group Lock the Gate Alliance said the Santos project was at odds with international efforts to halt fossil fuel expansion, to keep global temperature rises within 2C of pre-industrial levels.

Lock the Gate national coordinator Ellen Roberts also said it would lead to the industrialisation of the picturesque Arcadia Valley and risk contaminating groundwater used by local farmers.

“This is the reality of coal seam gas expansion – once-beautiful farming districts are irreparably degraded and industrialised due to the drilling of many hundreds of gas wells, access roads, and wastewater treatment plants,” Lock the Gate national coordinator Ellen Roberts said in a statement.

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“Groundwater beneath the land is drained and placed at risk of contamination.”

In a statement on Tuesday night, Santos said it welcomed the decision.

“GLNG will spend more than a billion dollars this year alone drilling new wells and developing infrastructure to support supply into its long-term contracts with customers in Korea and Malaysia,” the statement read.

“All new gas supply projects, whether for domestic or LNG markets, help to ease the pressure on the east coast gas market.

“The application for the wells was made two years ago and has undergone a robust environmental assessment process, including by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.”

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