METGASCO has hit back at Lismore City Council's decision to impose a moratorium on all coal seam gas activities on council controlled land.
Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson said yesterday that he was "most disappointed" with the council's reaction to proposed "low-risk" seismic testing.
"We agree with the council's own internal advice (that) it does not have the authority to reject or prevent work which has been approved by State Government," Mr Henderson said.
"We made the approach to council as a matter of respect and to ensure that it was informed of our operations. We did not receive the respectful, considered and professional response we expected ... Lismore council might wish to question if it is spending ratepayers' money in a responsible manner and acting in the best interests of the community.
"Metgasco is reviewing its position (and) will continue to keep council informed."
After a long debate on Tuesday night, councillors rejected legal advice that they didn't have the legislative capacity to stop exploration in a close vote of six to five.
A second successful motion (nine to two) was moved by Cr David Yarnall, rejecting Metgasco's application for seismic testing at Jiggi while imposing a moratorium on all coal seam gas-related works on council-owned or administered land.
The council also resolved to seek further legal advice and host a confidential briefing, inviting government and industry representatives as well as NSW Farmers, Norco and community groups.
The full impact of coal seam gas on the Northern Rivers became even more apparent yesterday when the NSW Farmers Association provided The Northern Star with a map showing all current petroleum titles and title applications - covering most of the Lismore State electorate.
Meanwhile the council's resolution has opened a pandora's box of legal questions that Sue Higginson, a senior solicitor with the NSW Environmental Defender's Office, said need to be resolved.
"Our view is coal seam gas has presented particular issues and environmental questions that the regulatory system is certainly not ready to address and respond to," Ms Higginson said.
"While there may be a legal whirlwind happening at the moment and we're facing questions we haven't had to answer before, in my view council's decision is prudent ... and sensible land management.
She also applauded the council's decision, saying that legal advice was "100% contingent on the brief that the lawyer receives."
"In my opinion, unless the legal advice was particular (to council road reserves), then it is wise to obtain a second opinion," she said.