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Hospitals, schools, houses above planned gas drilling sites

30 Dec 2012 SUN HERALD - HEATH ASTON AND ESTHER HAN


GAS will be mined from directly underneath Campbelltown Hospital under plans being considered for approval by the state government.

The mayor of Campbelltown, Sue Dobson, said people would "stand and fight" a proposal by gas company AGL to extract coal seam gas from underneath key infrastructure and thousands of homes. Opponents to coal seam gas say drilling leads to the environmental hazard of gases escaping to the surface and polluting water courses. The gas industry says the process is proven and safe.

According to AGL's submissions report, the desired gasfield feeding 66 new wells includes the central business district of Campbelltown, including both the public and private hospitals.

The Campbelltown campus of the University of Western Sydney would also be affected by the "horizontal drilling" planned by AGL. Schools would also be in the path of the drilling 700 metres below the surface, as would the Macarthur Square shopping centre and the M5 motorway.

AGL insists the process is safe but Ms Dobson said locals were unconvinced. "It's not on to mine under our homes and under our hospital. It's outrageous," she said.

John Fraser, 61, who lives in Eschol Park close to one of the proposed wells, said he was concerned about the expected nine months of non-stop drilling. "I'm worried about the byproducts of the mining, how it might damage the water system, devalue our house and cause health issues," he said.

An AGL spokeswoman said underground extraction posed no danger to surface infrastructure and community health.

"AGL has consistently consulted with the community about the proposed northern expansion of the Camden Gas Project, in line with NSW legislation and regulations for well over three years," she said.

"It is possible that horizontal drilling could take place under populated areas however it is worth noting that ... horizontal wells do not cause any impact on surface infrastructure above."

The Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said extracting coal seam gas from underneath built-up areas was "completely inappropriate", claiming evidence from Queensland's industry that gas escapes to the surface, posing an environmental risk.