An anti-CSG rally in Lismore drew more than 7000 people last year.
An anti-CSG rally in Lismore drew more than 7000 people last year. Doug Eaton

'Unfounded' CSG fears will make us pay more, says economist

A TOP economist has labelled fears of water contamination or land destruction from coal-seam-gas as "totally overblown", saying critics are using the claims as a smokescreen to hide their true intentions.

University of Western Australia's Professor Peter Hartley has an long affiliation with the resources industry, including as President of the United States' Association for Energy Economics.

Professor Hartley spoke to APN following a speaking engagement at a Deakin University forum on gas in Melbourne.

He said New South Wales Government's reluctance to help the industry - now hamstrung by shifting legislative goal posts - would result in the state likely copping the highest gas prices in the country.

Already forced to import its gas from Queensland, this supply will soon be earmarked for export as enormous gas plants in Central Queensland begin operating.

For Queensland, consumers will have to match world prices or roughly double the current cost. With this gas still needing piping to NSW, its southern neighbours will be expected to pay a premium.

This price hike would be mitigated for NSW if had access to its own gas supplies.

Professor Hartley said the fierce opposition to CSG in NSW was a result of environmental advocates who knew little about the industry but wanted to end the production of fossil fuels.

He said claims that gas could affect water supplies were not supported.

"More than a million (gas) wells have been hydraulically fractured in the United States alone," Professor Hartley said.

"In Australia, there have been 300 wells fractured in the Cooper Basin.

"Despite all those wells being hydraulically fractured, there's no known documented case of fracturing fluids migrating from coal seam to aquifer."

Less than a week ago, the NSW Government tightened restrictions on coal seam gas exploration, ruling out a further one million hectares of agricultural land.

This is in addition to rules banning CSG drilling within 2km of residential areas.

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