Sunday, 29 April 2012


On 26th April representatives of the Clarence Alliance Against Coal Seam Gas met with State MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis to explain their concerns about coal seam gas (CSG) mining.  The representatives were John Edwards, Irene Daly and Lisa Hunter. Below is John Edwards' report on this meeting.

We started out with my reading a letter (see below) about our concerns about CSG mining.

In response to that Mr Gulaptis tried to reassure us that the Government was "considering" the CSG issue. He pointed also to State Upper House and Federal Inquiries, and that we should all wait for the outcomes of those deliberations. He assured us that the party room discussions on CSG were all about three things - protecting water, getting a better deal for landowners, and protecting our food production. We asked if the "better deal" gave landowners the option to say "no", which he said was a very good question. However, he avoided a direct reply to that saying that landowners need to be better compensated with stronger access agreements in favour of the landowner.

Later I asked if he could add climate change to the Governmen'ts list of priority concerns, but he clearly does not believe that climate change is happening, and stated that no tidal measurements had been taken over time to prove that sea levels were actually rising. I think evidence on this should be presented to him.

In response to the question of when the moratorium on fracking would be removed, he ventured the opinion that it would be extended, quoting party room 'feeling'.

Mr Gulaptis said he had viewed the DVDs given to him, and there were some things he disagreed with, but there wasn't time for him to enlarge on that other than the sea level rise matter.  However, he said he felt the North Coast would prove to be unviable for coal seam gas mining because of the small size of the average property. The miners would have to negotiate with too many landowners with potentially lengthy mediation and possibly court processes.

In terms of the issues raised in our statement, he agreed that most of the concerns were legitimate, but claimed he had seen no evidence that any aquifers had been damaged, but he would like to see that evidence if we can give it to him.

Irene spoke very strongly of her mistrust of the system, with which Mr. Gulaptis  disagreed, citing that in all the years as a surveyor in the development business he had not seen evidence of it. It would have been good to have had the time to discuss the issue of "vision impaired ecologists" that we exposed over the Shannon Creek dam EIS.

It was really good to have youth involved, in the person of Lisa, who made her concerns for the future clear.

Mr Gulaptis said he would appreciate us sending him any evidence relating to CSG. Again I asked if evidence of climate change would be helpful.

Ha also said he would be prepared to address a community meeting on the CSG issue, but he's booked out for about two months.

In conclusion I have to say that his responses were predictable, and not all that encouraging.

John Edwards read this letter to Chris Gulaptis at the beginning of their meeting.  The letter was signed by John (on behalf of the Clarence Environment Centre), Irene Daly (on behalf of  the Gumbaynggirr Nation) and Lisa Hunter (on behalf of Clarence Alliance Against CSG)

We are concerned that the mining companies seeking to exploit coal seam gas and other forms of unconventional gas in the Clarence-Moreton Basin cannot guarantee that the following impacts will not occur:
  • damage to groundwater resources, including the depletion of aquifers;
  • methane leaks from wells during or after use, leading to increased fire hazards;
  • emissions of volatile organic compounds that are detrimental to human health;
  • escape of salty or toxic waste water into waterways;
  • leakage of waste water or other pollutants into groundwater; and
  • increased seismic activity resulting from the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
We are also concerned that the mining of coal seam and other forms of unconventional gas:
  • will lead to the industrialisation of rural and  bushland environments; 
  •   will degrade and destroy Aboriginal cultural sites;
  • will cause massive fragmentation of native bushland and wildlife habitat, leading to detrimental impacts on threatened species and ecological communities;
  • will impose unacceptable impacts on landowners and their neighbours through increased levels of noise, dust and smells, all leading to social disruption, and physical and psychological health impacts; 
  • will create downward pressure on land prices, both in the short and long term;
  • will disrupt and divide communities;
  • will impact on roads and bridges, without paying any rates to councils to repair the damage to local roads;
  • will, through increased traffic volumes, have negative road safety implications;
  • will put significant pressure on public waste disposal facilities; and
  • will not provide a single cent in royalties to the people of NSW in the first 5 years of a well's production and not pay full royalties until after 10 years of a well's production.

The burning of gas contributes to global warming through the emission of carbon dioxide. Fugitive emissions of unburnt methane during exploration, extraction, processing and transportation via lengthy pipelines also significantly contribute to global warming, as methane is potent greenhouse gas, with a higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide (70 times greater when measured over a 20 year period). When these fugitive emissions are considered, burning unconventional gas for electricity is worse then burning coal.
The International Energy Agency has identified that, by continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels, the world is currently on track to be 6 degrees warmer by 2100 (IEA Outlook 2012), a catastrophic level of climate change. And yet the Australian and NSW Governments continue to support the expansion of the gas and coal industries, and fail to plan for a transition to a low carbon economy powered by renewable and zero emission sources of energy.
Given all of the above, we strongly believe that the mining of coal seam gas and other forms of unconventional gas cannot be justified under any circumstances and must be stopped.
We urge you to take this message to your colleagues in the NSW Government.