Campbelltown MPs coal seam gas rebellion

Undermined: Local Liberal state MPs Chris Patterson, Bryan Doyle and Jai Rowell have called on the public to make submissions on the proposed northern expansion of the Camden Gas Project. Picture:Jeff de Pasquale
Undermined: Local Liberal state MPs Chris Patterson, Bryan Doyle and Jai Rowell have called on the public to make submissions on the proposed northern expansion of the Camden Gas Project. Picture:Jeff de Pasquale

THERE'S nothing necessarily wrong with coal seam gas — it just doesn't need to be extracted from underneath suburban homes and backyards in Campbelltown.

That's the view of Macarthur's three state Liberal MPs Bryan Doyle (Campbelltown), Chris Patterson (Camden) and Jai Rowell (Wollondilly), who have this week called on AGL to rethink a proposed expansion of its coal seam gas operations in the region.

Campbelltown Council is also rallying in opposition, as letters and emails of protest pour into the Advertiser from upset residents.

A public protest rally is also being proposed for February.

The next stage of the Camden Gas Project — now before the state government — would see 66 gas wells drilled close to homes in Kearns, Varroville and Eschol Park.

The project's sub-surface area would stretch from the Ingleburn CBD to Camden CBD, taking in most of Campbelltown's residential suburbs.

AGL insists coal seam gas is a "low emissions, low impact and low risk industry", and says the project would create jobs and boost the state's gas supply.

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell said gas resources were valuable, but it was important to get the balance right.

"We're asking AGL to reconsider its proposal to put this application in," he said.

"There are a lot of good places for coal seam gas, but underneath homes is not the place."

Mr Doyle stuck with his position that coal seam gas mining did not belong in residential areas. "While I have no objections to coal seam gas and mining, I am of the opinion that it must be done in the appropriate place," he said.

Camden MP Chris Patterson said: "We want to be quite clear — the government is now at arm's length, the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) makes its decision and I still have full confidence in the PAC.

"I encourage anybody who feels they'll be affected to get a submission in by December 18.

"Don't be silent — let us know."

All three MPs said they had full confidence the project would be adequately assessed under the state significant development scheme, but they had voiced their own concerns about the project to Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.

Macquarie Fields' Labor MP Andrew McDonald said he didn't understand what the rush was to assess the expansion. "The realistic option is just press pause, it gives the science time to catch up with community views."

Dr McDonald said the only way to fight the proposal was through "reasonable, realistic and persistent" community activism. "I don't think it's a done deal, but I think it's going to be very difficult to stop it," he said.

An AGL spokeswoman said the company had operated in Camden and the surrounding suburbs of Cawdor, Menangle Park and Elderslie for more than 10 years.

''AGL's current plans for the northern expansion of its Camden Gas Project have been revised to incorporate public feedback from the first public exhibition in 2010 and are again being publicly exhibited until December 18.

''AGL encourages the community to provide their feedback to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure during this period, so it can be considered in the department's assessment.''

Details: Plans for the northern expansion of the Camden Gas Project can be viewed at majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au. Submissions close on December 18.