THE NSW government is nearly ready to pass over its assessment of the controversial Narrabri Gas Project to the independent body that will have the final say on the development.
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes formally requested to the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to hold a public meeting in Narrabri, in anticipation of his department wrapping up its assessment.
The request is a formality, but reveals the Santos projects is about to enter the last leg of its length approval process.
Once the government officially hands over the assessment to the IPC, it will have 12 weeks hold a public hearing and to make a determination.
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The Narrabri hearing will focus on the department's assessment and key issues raised by the public.
The NSW Planning Department received almost 23,000 submissions about the project, including at least 18,000 objections.
It's the largest number of submissions has ever received by the department for a development application.
The formal request comes two weeks after a parliamentary inquiry released a scathing reporting, showing deep flaws in the state government's regulation of the coal seam gas industry.
Only two of the 16 recommendations made by the NSW Chief Scientist have been implemented in the past five years.
Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher welcomed the referral and said a decision on whether or not Narrabri can proceed was vital for Santos to determine where it would invest in new natural gas developments to supply the east coast gas market over the coming decade.
"Santos will participate openly and transparently in the IPC process," he said.
"We have applied the best science to the environmental impact statement for Narrabri. We are confident that it will stand on its merits and that the project could be safely and sustainably developed to protect water resources and the environment."