Satellite image of the area of the NSW east coast where seismic testing is proposed. Picture: National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management AuthorityThe energy company that wants to conduct seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle faces another hurdle.

The commonwealth regulator has asked Asset Energyto provide more written information to supplement the new environmental plan it submitted at the end of October.

It comes after the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Management Authority sent the company back to the drawing board in August because theregulator was“notreasonably satisfied that the environment plan meets the criteria”.

Asset Energy wants to conduct seismic tests to look for gas under the ocean floor in a12.25 square-kilometre patch off the coast of Newcastle early next year.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Goh Hock –CEO of parent company MEC Resources –said the area was “supremely located” to provide gas to the east coast market. He said the request for further information did not mean the environmental plan had to be resubmitted again.

“Through export of Australian liquefied natural gas from Queensland, and political restriction of onshore gas exploration works in NSW and Victoria, considerable shortfall in gas supplies into the major east coast gas market has been forecast in the near future,” Mr Hock said.

“[The company]is working tirelessly to explore for, and potentially exploit, commercial gas accumulations to satisfy this market demand.”

Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field welcomed the delay and called for the seismic testing to be abandoned.

“Seismic testing in the waters off Newcastle poses an unacceptable risk for ocean habitat, marine wildlife including migrating whales, and productive local fishing grounds,” he said.

“This is the second occasion when the regulator has delayed its review of the licence application, this time seeking additional information.

“The NSW government should intervene and ban this risky activity from the waters off Newcastle and elsewhere in the state waters. Our oceans are no place for oil and gas exploration.”

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