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SYDNEY: Australia has approved two major new fossil fuel projects that proponents in the climate change-vulnerable nation say will create badly needed jobs despite growing concerns over emissions.

Authorities in New South Wales state on Wednesday announced conditional approval for a Aus$3.6 billion (US$2.6 billion) coal seam gas development that has generated widespread local opposition.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “relieved” that an independent commission had given energy firm Santos the green light to proceed, adding that gas was a “central part of our energy security into the future”.

The project is a keystone of conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plan for a “gas-fired recovery” of the coronavirus-hit economy, as Australia grapples with its first recession in almost 30 years and a million job losses.

Up to 850 wells would be drilled on 1,000 hectares of a 95,000-hectare site, Santos said, with the potential to supply half the gas needs for the country’s most populous state.