Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord Inc v Santos
Coal seam gas (CSG) company Santos agreed on 1 September 2014, in the NSW Land and Environment Court, to provide water monitoring data after legal action by farmers seeking information relating to the contamination of water bores on a property in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, in north-west NSW.
On 21 May 2014, the local farming group, Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord Inc (MGPA), represented by environmental legal centre, EDO NSW, applied to the Land and Environment Court for a preliminary discovery order for any relevant information held by Santos. The company had previously refused to provide all these documents.
The action followed the contamination of freshwater bores on the property of a farmer, whose land adjoins a site used for exploratory CSG drilling. He was advised by Santos in 2012 that the bore water was unfit for drinking and domestic use. Another bore, closer to the CSG site, has also shown effects of possible contamination.
The Land and Environment Court order, agreed by both parties, was for Santos to provide a range of documents including;
- all test results from sampling of bores on the property with the contaminated bore, and expert advice to Santos about this testing;
- all test results from water and soil samples from a group of pilot CSG drilling sites, part of Santos’ Dewhurst CSG site, which are to the north of the property;
- all water quality testing results for groundwater samples and monitoring held by Santos taken from stock and domestic bores within a 4km radius of these CSG drilling sites; and
- All documents detailing the history of storage of wastewater produced at the Dewhurst CSG, site including reports on any leaks, spills or overflows.
Santos deny any responsibility for the contamination but the MGPA have said water testing and expert scientific advice identifies CSG activities as a possible source.
The information provided by Santos will assist the farmers group to decide whether to launch civil enforcement proceedings against the company for water pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW).