"Why us?" That's the view of Tambar Springs farmers caught in a new Petroleum Exploration Licence fight they say is dividing farmers on the Liverpool Plains.
The renewal of three PELs (1, 2 and 238) that cover a large area from Breeza to Tambar Springs - some of the richest cropping area in Australia - has dismayed locals who thought they had seen the back of zombie PELS and puts a new dark cloud over their operations.
The sceptre of gas exploration now hangs over their rich farming enterprises, including for Helen Strang and Heather Martin, both CWA and NSW Farmers' members who are taking the fight up to government.
After years fighting to get rid of the zombie PELs they were devastated to see three renewed only weeks ago in what they say was an underhand move by the NSW Government.
Mrs Strang approached a government member and asked why they were singled out in the Liverpool Plains. "If it's not good enough for that side of the Liverpool Plains why is it okay in this area,"she asked him. She was told "you're the gas area", and the PEL was part of the Government's "Gas Plan" that supports the Santos Pilliga gas project.
Mrs Strang has made it her personal passion to fight the PELs. Her family run cattle and grow summer and winter crops at Balarinji.
"This is a huge threat to our groundwater. Also it will damage our land with tracks and make it difficult to farm and perform precision farming. We have had no official response from Government and we feel abandoned in an area known for its world-class agriculture."
"We could be severely impacted by this. It was interesting to see that the former Shenhua offsets are not included in the PEL area.
"No one has come near us to discuss this." She said they may soon see seismic testing and core holes drilled. "We are being treated like second-grade citizens."
She said under the PEL, Santos could undertake 'pilot testing', which can include gas and water processing facilities, road construction and worker accommodation. They feared a spill of any polluted water extracted, citing a spill of 10,000 litres of water from coal seams at Bibblewindi in the Pilliga.
"The renewal of the PELs follows the release of a new groundwater impact report in Queensalnd, which reveals the devastating impacts the coal seam gas industry is having."
The CWA has a long-running policy against coal seam gas in NSW and debated new motions at the conference that called for "the implementation of legislation to ban fossil fuel companies from making political donations".
The issue had brought farmers and Gamilaroi people closer together, she said.
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