Push for Metgasco cancellation after suspension upheld

GAS-drilling on the Northern Rivers is unlikely before the state election next March after the suspension of Metgasco's exploration licence was upheld yesterday.

The decision was welcomed by protesters, who said they were relieved but would not rest until the company's licence was cancelled permanently.

But Metgasco managing director Peter Henderson said the NSW Government should not be "intimidated" by activists "making spurious and ill-informed claims about drilling for natural gas when the state is running out of gas and regional areas are crying out for investment".

The last-minute suspension has already cost the company an estimated $3 million due to the aborted Rosella well at Bentley. It now looks to be in limbo until it can convince the NSW Government to reverse the suspension.

It is reviewing its position on legal action and will return to the Supreme Court for a directions hearing today.

In a statement it vowed to continue the legal action if errors in the original decision made last month had not been addressed.

The Knitting Nanas celebrate after the NSW Government upheld the decision to suspend Metgasco exploratory licence.
The Knitting Nanas celebrate after the NSW Government upheld the decision to suspend Metgasco exploratory licence. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Mr Henderson said the government "should be defending exploration and investment in what is a highly regulated and environmentally safe industry".

But Lismore councillor Simon Clough said the grounds for suspension were equal grounds for cancellation of its licence.

Gasfields Free submitted a 62-page document to the Office of Coal Seam Gas during its review of the suspension, arguing Metgasco falsely promoted the aborted Rosella well as a "conventional" well, not "tight sands", which would ultimately require fracking to produce gas.

It argued the company had presided over a failed community consultation campaign and had no social licence.

"Metgasco hasn't done its job," he said.

"We'll be extremely vigilant in this area, and with 96% of the community on side we've got a pretty fair idea of what's happening, and can be back there (at Bentley) at a moment's notice."

Gasfields Free spokesman Ian Gaillard called it a "common sense and correct decision" by the government.

The Knitting Nanas celebrate with Lismore Councillor Simon Clough after the NSW Government upheld the decision to suspend Metgasco exploratory licence.
The Knitting Nanas celebrate with Lismore Councillor Simon Clough after the NSW Government upheld the decision to suspend Metgasco exploratory licence. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

"While we are grateful that the government has allowed this community a reprieve, people remain overwhelmingly opposed to any gasfield industrialisation of the Northern Rivers, and will not have certainty until Metgasco's gas licence is cancelled," he said.

Meanwhile, Ballina MP Don Page and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis moved immediately to congratulate their government,

"I strongly endorse the original suspension (by) the government and I believe the Office of Coal Seam Gas is correct in maintaining the suspension," Mr Page said.

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan also congratulated the government "for listening to the concerns of our community".

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham declared the company's business model of "relying on cops and courts" was doomed to failure, and they should "pack up and leave the Northern Rivers".

After late trading yesterday Metgasco's share price finished 2% down at 4.8c.

Topics:  bentley, coal seam gas, csg, metgasco

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