The West

East-West tension in APPEA boardroom

All is not well in the boardroom of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

There are mumblings that Sunday's APPEA board meeting was the most heated in years.

Coming on the eve of this year's three-day conference, which features a record number of exhibitors and about 3500 delegates, tensions are high among the various factions that make up the leadership of Australia's peak oil and gas lobby.

There has long been a degree of friction among the APPEA membership over the lobby's focus on east coast gas issues, primarily coal seam in Queensland and now increasingly in NSW.

The "our natural advantage" campaign run by APPEA last year has been perceived by some in the west as funded by all, but supporting only in the east.

_WestBusiness _understands APPEA's call for members to fund a second round of the campaign has not been embraced by all.

But more unsettling to APPEA board relations has been a decision two weeks ago by Santos and AGL to declare they would not drill on private land in NSW without the voluntary consent of the landholder.

The move has angered many on APPEA's board who believe it runs counter to its industry-wide approach to land access, not least because in Australia the mineral rights are owned by the State.

The Santos agreement, therefore, gives landholders a highly favourable bargaining position, according to disaffected board sources.

There is a view within APPEA that the Santos move, seen as a desperate act to extricate itself from a losing PR battle in NSW, is undermining the lobby group, and the broader membership.

No one will talk publicly but it is the topic of choice up and down the corridors of the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The West Australian

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