Metgasco could have environmental tick for Rosella in days

ENVIRONMENTAL approval needed for Metgasco's return to the Northern Rivers is expected within days, the company's chairman has said.

Metgasco yesterday announced it planned to test for conventional gas 2.1km below the earth at the Bentley's Rosella-1 well, 12km north-east of Casino - although it won't rule out future fracking.

The coal seam gas company's return to the Northern Rivers appears likely to run straight back into the community protests of the early part of the year.

Lock the Gate's Boudicca Cerese predicted the anti-CSG community would block any attempt by Metgasco to resume drilling, because it was the company's ultimate intent to drill "hundreds if not thousands" of wells.

"They need to make a profit - they will want all the gas in their licence area which requires large-scale industrial gasfields," Ms Cerese said.

The announcement also triggered intense debate on social media yesterday, with CSG opponents attacking any Metgasco return to the Northern Rivers and cynicism at a statement by Page MP Kevin Hogan saying he was "exceptionally disappointed" at Metgasco's return.

Metgasco chairman Nick Heath denied a move last week by a group of disgruntled and impatient shareholders to unseat the Metgasco board was a factor in the decision.

Instead, he said the company had detected a "shift in sentiment" by Federal and State governments in support of the industry.

He pointed to Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane's vocal support for CSG expansion of in NSW, and the potential consequences of imminent gas price hikes on the NSW economy.

Metgasco will conduct a community consultation process prior to drilling - details of which remain vague - but which will include a visit by Mr Macfarlane to Casino.

Mr Heath said the company wanted to "resolve the impasse" which has marred its previous exploration program which ended abruptly in March, saying it was regrettable the community had gotten so "off-side".

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