Locals in the dark on Casino gas drilling plans
By RACHEL SCOLLAY
ELLANGOWAN resident Gloria Horne is upset because local people know nothing about plans to drill for gas in the area.
And she is 'disgusted' with the Richmond Valley Council which had met with the company on several occasions as far back as June, but failed to inform locals.
At the beginning of December, Sydney-based gas company Metgasco announced that after five years of exploration it planned to drill for gas and build a small power plant just south of Casino.
The announcement came as the company was also preparing a share float on the Australian Stock Exchange, to raise about $5 million to finish preparatory work on the field.
Metgasco said it hoped to be selling electricity into the power grid by next July, and to start construction of a power plant by August.
However, Gloria was deeply disturbed by the news, particularly after seeing a 60 Minutes feature on gas drilling in the Camden Valley.
"The things that have gone on down there are just unbelievable," she said.
"The odour can be smelt over 10 kms away, even though they have used a deodorant.
"The loss of value on our properties is going to be astronomical.
"Would you buy a property with heavy machinery and trucks and pipes on the land. You have no control over where they put these things. You have virtually lost all authority over your land."
Gloria said the Camden Valley land-owners had experienced bus loads of people wandering over their land, as the company tried to sell shares.
However, Glen Cole said he had experienced no problems after signing a contract with Metgasco, allowing them to carry out test drilling on his land just South of Casino.
The company spent around two months drilling a 600 metre test well at his Ellangowan Rd property. Meanwhile he was paid $300 a week.
Metgasco obviously liked what they found, because now they're back for more.
But Glen is adopting a wait and see attitude towards future drilling after the company outlined plans for about four more holes, as well as a dam.
Glen said he was told the next stage would come under the original contract he had signed. He said Metgasco didn't have a contract with him to go into production, but he would be happy as long as he got 'a fair deal' out of it.
Production could involve around 10 holes over a period of 10 or 15 years, he said.
"I didn't think it would go as far as it has," he said.
"I don't know if we will get royalties out of it, but it could be good for the town."
Meanwhile Gloria will be organising a public information meeting for the New Year.
"If you don't make some enquiries and get some answers then you haven't got a leg to stand on later," she said.