Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA serves AGL with notice for records

Media release: 28 January 2015

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will not permit AGL to commence operations at its Gloucester coal seam gas site until it is satisfied that the operations can be conducted in a manner that does not pose a risk to the environment.

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said the EPA is undertaking a full investigation into AGL Gloucester’s operations and served AGL with a notice today demanding records prior to any further work commencing at the site.

“Officers from the EPA are at AGL’s Gloucester operations today undertaking inspections and water sampling, after AGL informed the authority yesterday that it had detected BTEX chemicals at its Waukivory operations,” Mr Gifford said.

“The EPA has concerns with the environmental practices of the operations at AGL Gloucester.

“The legal notice directs AGL to provide sampling results and quality assurance/quality control reports and all records relating to results of sampling that show a detection of BTEX.

“The EPA has also directed AGL to provide it with a report outlining the results of the analysis undertaken on samples collected on 16 and 29 December 2014, and 12 January 2015 and an analysis of the scientific rigour of the sampling and analysis processes.

“The EPA will undertake a detailed review of the data and the analysis method that has been used.”

“Fracking fluid additives used at the Waukivory operation were sampled and analysed by Government environmental officers in November 2014 before fracking activities were allowed to commence. These samples were analysed for BTEX chemicals, which were not detected.

“Identifying the source of the elevated levels of BTEX chemicals found in AGL’s samples will be part of the EPA’s investigation.”

Mr Gifford reiterated that AGL informed the EPA that it was aware of elevated levels of BTEX chemicals on 15 January, but it did not make these results known to the EPA or the public until yesterday.

“The EPA is concerned at AGL’s lack of timeliness and transparency in informing us of these results. The EPA is reviewing AGL’s Environment Protection Licence to include new conditions requiring immediate reporting of these types of results when they are detected.  All companies are required to immediately report any significant environmental harm or threat of harm to the EPA.”

BTEX is a group of chemicals known as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. These chemicals can occur naturally in coal seams. The Government banned the use of BTEX chemicals in hydraulic fracturing and are prohibited in Environment Protection Licences issued by the EPA.

The Division of Resources and Energy is also conducting an investigation and has issued AGL Gloucester with a direction to suspend operations.

Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 28 January 2015