CSG site water contamination results will be 'transparent'

THE results of an investigation into how dangerous chemicals contaminated water at a Mid North Coast coal seam gas project will be made public as soon as possible, NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts says.

Operations at AGL Energy's Gloucester project were suspended on Tuesday after benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) were found in four pilot wells and a water storage tank.

The discovery coincides with a NSW parliamentary inquiry into gas prices and supply that kicked off in Sydney on Wednesday.

"I want to know exactly what has happened, whether or not this is naturally occurring or whether it is an additive," Mr Roberts told the inquiry.

"I believe in transparency and honesty. As soon as I get it, it will go up onto our website and that'll provide the basis of any further decisions we make with respect to this."

BTEX chemicals have been banned from use in the fracking process because of links with cancer, but they can be naturally formed.

The Environmental Protection Authority went on the offensive after learning it took the company 12 days to notify that the chemicals had been found.

"AGL informed the EPA that it was aware of these elevated levels of BTEX chemicals on January 15, but it did not make these results known to the EPA or the public until (Tuesday)," EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said.

"The EPA is very concerned at AGL's lack of timeliness and transparency in informing us of these results and we will be conducting a full investigation."

The contamination scare comes at a pivotal point for the state's mining industry as the parliamentary inquiry reviews whether domestic gas users could be left in the cold next winter.

AGL has been one of the biggest proponents of expanding the industry, telling the inquiry NSW faced "shortages possible from 2016, with dire economic and social consequences".

One of AGL's chief witnesses was a no-show at the hearing, because she was busy fielding questions from the EPA.

The Greens argued the shortage claims were a scare campaign and prices were driven up by an obsession with exporting for greater profit, rather than supporting energy needs at home.

"At the very least, gas exports should not be allowed to expand and a path should be found to phase them out as rapidly as possible," Greens NSW MP John Kaye said.

"However, it is likely that the political climate will prevent any restrictions being placed on gas exports in this decade so alternative responses to rising gas prices should be explored."

- APN NEWSDESK



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