Community group appeals decision to allow CSG water treatment facility to operate near Narrabri

Community group People for the Plains has appealed the Land and Environment Court decision that gave Santos a green light to operate its 'Leewood' coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater treatment facility near Narrabri and the world-renowned Pilliga State Forest.

30 August 2016

People for the Plains – represented by public interest environmental lawyers EDO NSW – argued in the Land and Environment Court that the Leewood facility is unlawful because it did not go through the proper assessment process before being approved. The NSW Department of Industry approved the facility in August 2015 as CSG exploration and without an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being prepared and without the public being given a chance to comment.

On 1 August, the Land and Environment Court decided that the approval was valid. The facility can now begin operating, and is expected to treat up to 1.5 million litres of CSG wastewater every day and then use the water to irrigate farmland crops.

An appeal was lodged in the Court of Appeal on Monday 29 August and is set down for first mention on 26 October.

“Our client has not made the decision to appeal lightly. We have pored over the Land and Environment Court decision and have sought advice from expert barristers. We believe our client has solid grounds to appeal this decision,” said Sue Higginson, CEO of EDO NSW.

“The Leewood facility is expected to treat up to 1.5 million litres of CSG wastewater every day. Local communities are rightly worried about the impacts the facility will have on the valuable ecosystems of the Pilliga. Leewood is one of a number of incremental CSG developments in the area that pose a real and increasing threat to one of Australia’s important natural ecosystems.”

“The laws relating to CSG exploration and infrastructure are complex – this is where planning law and mining law intersect. It is really important that the proper legal procedures are followed for this development as it will set a precedent for exploration-related projects in the future.”

“Our client will argue before the Court of Appeal that the legal framework for CSG exploration does not - and was never intended to - exempt industrial scale, long term projects such as the Leewood facility from requiring development consent. If a non-CSG developer wants to construct a facility like Leewood, they would be required to prepare a full legally prescribed Environmental Impact Statement that would be placed on public exhibition so that the community can have a say.” 

“Rigorous environmental assessment and public exhibition is vital for a well-functioning planning system, and brings about better decisions.”

For background on this case:


Media enquiries: Sue Higginson 0428 227 363 or Chris Madden (02) 9262 6989,