The $3.6 billion Narrabri Gas Project has been granted phased and conditional approval by the states Independent Planning Commssion (IPC).
Santos plans to drill 850 gas wells and associated infrastructure across 95,000ha encompassing the Pilliga State Forest and privately owned farmland south west of Narrabri.
The approval comes with 134 conditions and was handed down on Wednesday 30th September after 15 weeks of deliberation, a record 7 day public hearing with 11 thousand submissions, 23,000 objections and years of preperation.
Issues raised during the public hearing inluded groundwater impacts; climate change impacts from greenhouse gas emissions; biodiversity impacts; impacts on agriculture; bushfire impacts; employment impacts; health impacts; impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage; and management of waste (including salt).
The four phases of approval are appraisal, contruction, production and rehabilitation.
Section A9 a) of the Development Consent states Phase 2 cannot begin until planning approval is granted for a transmission pipeline to deliver gas to the domestic market.
One of the main arguments put forward by Santos for the approval of their Narrabri Project was the promise to provide gas security for households in NSW.
Kevin Gallagher, Santos CEO and Managing Director said they welcome the approval and accept all the conditions imposed by the IPC.
“Santos is excited about the prospect of developing the Narrabri Gas Project, a 100 per cent domestic gas project that can provide the lowest cost source of gas for NSW customers,” Mr Gallagher said.
However, Dr Madeline Taylor, energy law and policy expert at the University of Sydney said there are no specific conditions or recommendations that require Santos to sell the gas extracted in the domestic market.
"The Narrabri Gas Project is supposed to supply NSW with gas," Dr Taylor said,"However there is no legally binding commitment for that gas to be reserved for NSW."
"This gas will be extremly expensive to produce, so in order for Santos to make ends meet and make this project profitable, they will have to sell to the highest bidder," Dr Taylor said.
"They arn't going to have energy security front of mind, they'll sell to which ever state or distributor who will pay the highest price."
Community groups, experts, farmers and politicians have been flying out of the woodwork to throw their support either with or against the approval.