Coal seam gas mining head takes aim at McCormack

THE mining company head keen to tap Griffith for coal seam gas – despite vehement community objection – has told Riverina MP Michael McCormack to “stop interfering”.

Grainger Energy director Vaughan Cullen wrote to Mr McCormack requesting confirmation of reports he told a rally of Hillston farmers last week he would “speak with Katrina Hodgkinson and see if we could work out some way of not granting this exploration licence”.

Mr Cullen said if Mr McCormack could not adamantly refute the claim then he would take the issue up with Premier Barry O’Farrell and minister for energy Anthony Roberts on the basis of interference with due process of the Mines Department.

“It is this kind of interference that got a few other politicians in NSW into some serious trouble and Barry O’Farrell and Anthony Roberts need to be able to reassure the industry that the processes are not being tampered with,” Mr Cullen said.

“Community objectors to the application have had their opportunity and submissions have been made, it is now up to the department to decide (the exploration application) on its merits.”

Meanwhile, the issue of potential coal seam gas exploration in the Murumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) was raised in state parliament this week. 

Despite Murrumbidgee MP Adrian Piccoli writing to Ms Hodgkinson requesting critical industry cluster protection from coal seam gas in the MIA, the government voted against a bid for the exclusion zone by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham on Wednesday.

“We need equity in this state and it’s beyond me why there’s one rule for the grape growers in the Hunter Valley and another for the rest of the state,” Mr Buckingham said. 

“For Adrian Piccoli to write to the relevant portfolio holder is one thing, but he got the wrong minister – the decision is made by planning minister Brad Hazzard which just shows the government doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. 

“It’s a disgrace and the government should cease considering any applications until they carry out a comprehensive review of agriculture across the state and listen to the areas asking for critical industry cluster protection.”

Mr Buckingham’s motion came after more than 200 people attended a meeting of the newly formed Hillston Aquifer Alliance last Friday to discuss the impacts of coal seam gas drilling on the area’s agricultural water supplies and how to co-ordinate efforts to block Grainger Energy.

A “Lock the Gate” alliance meeting will be held at the Northside Leagues Club at 6pm on Tuesday for people wanting information about the proposed mining application. 

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