UPDATE 2.05pm: NEW Page MP Kevin Hogan says he is "exceptionally disappointed" at Metgasco's decision to return to the Northern Rivers.
In a statement, Mr Hogan says he has arranged to meet with Metgasco chief Peter Henderson next week to "convey my belief that there is currently not community support for CSG within the Northern Rivers".
"I believe very strongly this decision flies in the face of where the community stands. I don't think there is currently enough evidence to say that it's safe," Mr Hogan says.
"The concerns of the community about water and air quality, as well as the increasing industrialisation of the farm land have not been adequately addressed for Metgasco to return to exploring with in the Northern Rivers."
Mr Hogan also speaks out in defence of people who oppose coal seam gas, and who were recently dismissed by new Coalition Resouces Minister Ian Macfarlane as "noisy protesters, minority groups, with no interest in the development of regional Australia and the economic progress of agriculture and mining together". Mr Macfarlane also slammed CSG opponents as wanting to "politicise this issue and tell lies".
"The opponents of coal seam gas are sometimes branded as a noisy minority," Mr Hogan says in his statement.
"In this community they are not. They're fathers, mothers, professionals, farmers and senior citizens who have unanswered questions about the Industry and are therefore uncomfortable about it developing here at present."
UPDATE, 12.30pm: RICHMOND MP Justine Elliot has called on new Page MP Kevin Hogan to explain his and the National Party's position on coal seam gas drilling in light of Metgasco's decision to return to the Northern Rivers.
Ms Elliot has come out swinging over the announcement, in which Metgasco boss Peter Henderson attributes the decision to return to the region to "recent regulatory and political developments, particularly since the September Federal election".
Mr Henderson's announcement follow outspoken support for coal seam gas by Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has attacked NSW's policy of having CSG exclusion zones around populated areas, saying they should apply only to "urban centres" and not "hamlets".
"Metgasco admits that the main reason for recommencing CSG mining is the Liberal National Party victory at the Federal election," Ms Elliot says in her statement.
"Kevin Hogan must today explain why he and the National Party are allowing Metgasco to recommence CSG mining in the Northern Rivers.
"Throughout the election campaign we kept saying that a vote for the National Party is a vote for CSG mining and today this has been shown to be 100% correct.
"At both a State and a Federal level we are now seeing locals being sold out by the pro-CSG National Party.
"I stand with the community in opposing harmful CSG mining in our region. This is in contrast to all the National Party members on the North Coast, both State and Federal who are allowing CSG mining to occur."
11.10am: METGASCO is set to return to the Northern Rivers, the company announced this morning.
The company's managing director Peter Henderson said in a statement that it wanted to start drilling its Rosella-1 well, 12 km to the northeast of Casino.
"Six months ago, Metgasco suspended field operations when the NSW government announced major changes to regulatory and administrative procedures," he said.
"Like Metgasco, major industry players also chose to suspend activity in NSW at that time."
"However, recent regulatory and political developments, particularly since the September Federal election, have encouraged Metgasco to initiate the activities necessary to enable field operations to recommence".
The Rosella well drills for conventional gas rather than coal seam gas. However, Metgasco has indicated it is considering using hydraulic fracturing to access coal seam gas at other sites.
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