The recently-formed Clarence Alliance Against Coal Seam Gas hosted an information meeting in South Grafton on Friday 30th March.
Drawing on his experience in Queensland, Drew Hutton, one of the founders and current president of the "Lock the Gate" movement emphasised the enormous threat that the Clarence Valley was facing as the coal seam gas miners moved into this area. Hutton said that because of the attitude of governments, the CSG miners believed they were going to get a free ride. However, the growing community opposition should be showing them it was not going to be as easy as they thought.
|Drew Hutton addressing the meeting. Photo: L Blain
The second speaker, Janet Cavanaugh, spoke about some of the major issues in CSG mining that are of community concern. These included:
- · Water issues – disposal of "produced" water pumped from wells; the risk to aquifers either through contamination by chemicals pumped into wells or through depletion.
- · Land use impacts – changes to rural landscapes as a result of mining infrastructure (e.g. roads, pipelines, holding ponds); clearing of vegetation and erosion impacts; noise from pumps, truck movements etc.
- · Carbon emissions – industry claims that CSG is more carbon-friendly than coal do not take into consideration the whole of life impact of this energy source.
- · Weak regulation in NSW – little opportunity for community input on mining proposals; very low returns to the state (which in reality is the people of the state) as there are no royalties for the first five years of a well's production and a gradual increase over the next five years.
- · What is happening to the gas – it is mostly for export
The third speaker was Brian Monk, a Queensland farmer from the Tara area near Chinchilla. Monk, who refers to himself as a CSG refugee, spoke about his experience of CSG in his area. One of his major concerns was the poisoning of groundwater with mining chemicals. This poisoning resulted in his grandchildren getting welts on their skin when they were bathing. Another issue he highlighted was the failure of regulators in Queensland to implement effectively the regulations controlling the CSG industry.
One of the audience commented that Monk's experience sounded like a tale from a third world country rather than something that could happen in Australia.
Sue Higginson, Senior Solicitor from the Environmental Defenders Office in Lismore, spoke about property rights and other legal issues relating to mining exploration and production.
Janet Cavanaugh gave a second presentation about the situation in the Clarence Valley. This will be the subject of another post in the near future.