Tuesday 27 November 2012


The Grafton chapter of Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG) held a knit-in at the Glenugie anti-CSG protest site on Monday 26th November.  Protesters have been at the drill site on Avenue Road south of Grafton in the Clarence Valley since coal seam gas company Metgasco commenced clearing and construction activities in the previous week.

"The Nannas wanted to express their support for the protest at Glenugie," said spokesperson Leonie Blain.

"At this particular site there are serious concerns about the impact the drilling will have on the Coldstream River, a tributary of the Clarence River,  and the rural properties surrounding the drill site. "

"The Nannas are also concerned that Metgasco, despite its promises, has failed to keep the local community informed about its activities."

"We will be putting our concerns about Glenugie to local State Parliament member Chris Gulaptis when we meet with him this week," Ms Blain said.

Knitting Nannas from Lismore have also visited the site on a number of occasions to support the protesters.

Thursday 22 November 2012


Glenugie locals and members of the Lock the Gate alliance are furious that gas company Metgasco has commenced drilling at Glenugie without consultation with nearby landholders or any public notification that they had received approval for the works.

Local Sarah Fletcher is anxious about the potential impacts of the drilling operation on her property which lies downstream of the site on Avenue Road, just east of the Grafton Regional Airport and within the catchment of the important Coldstream wetlands.

“I was shocked to learn that drilling commenced yesterday,” Mrs Fletcher said. “According to workmen at the site, a 6 metre hole has already been drilled and a pad established for future drilling.

“This has come from out of the blue. We had a promise from Steve Gallop, Metgasco’s manager of Health, Safety and Environment, that all neighbours would be notified in writing but this has not occurred,” she said.

Mrs Fletcher will be joining other locals at a protest vigil outside the site today.
Lock the Gate’s Northern Regional coordinator, Ian Gaillard, who will also be joining today’s protest at the site, shares the locals’ concerns about the lack of transparency and communication in the process which has approved this work.

“Approval of this drill site is based on a consent given in 2010 for a well-site then proposed for an undisclosed location in Coaldale – 50 km to the north-west of the current site.

“Apparently an amendment to the review of environmental factors (REF) has been assessed for this new site – but this amendment and the new approval are not currently available on the Department of Resource and Energy’s website.

“We are calling on the NSW Government to address the community’s real concerns regarding the lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes,” he said.

“With the shroud of secrecy clouding the approval process, is it any wonder that there is widespread lack of confidence in the Government’s promises to protect our water and air from pollution arising from the drilling process?

“We are calling for an immediate stop to all drilling for unconventional gas in the Clarence Valley. Recently released data on methane emissions from gas fields at Tara highlight the urgent need for baseline studies to be done before this industry proceeds any further in our region,” he said. 

        -  Media Release issued 21st November, 2012.

Friday 16 November 2012


The gas exploration company Red Sky Energy has recently claimed its pilot gas production well north of Whiporie is tapping into conventional gas reserves in 'tight sands', when only a few months earlier, they released a report for the Australian Stock Exchange claiming their exploratory drilling had identified unconventional gas.

I believe the gas industry is deliberately trying to confuse the community. Firstly they told us that the environmental and social disasters resulting from shale gas mining in the USA, which was exposed in the award winning documentary 'Gasland', is different to our local resource which is coal seam gas.

Natural gas, conventional and unconventional gas, shale, coal seam and tight sand gas. What does it all mean?

Natural gas is methane, the result of decomposition of vegetation deposits over millions of years. That methane comes from conventional and unconventional sources. The conventional source is methane that has leaked out of the coal seam and become trapped underground in large reservoirs which can be easily tapped by drilling down into it, and pumping it out through a limited number of well heads that can operate for many decades.

Unconventional gas is that methane that has either remained in the coal seam (coal seam gas), or has also seeped out but instead of accumulating in large reservoirs, has then become trapped in other underground shale deposits (shale gas) or, as is the case in the Clarence Valley, in sedimentary sandstone (tight sand gas).

All these unconventional deposits require some level of “stimulation”, i.e. breaking up the underground rock layers to release the gas. This is done using relatively new technology that allows horizontal drilling along the rock seam so that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” can be undertaken.

Fracking is the process of pumping a mixture of water, sand and a variety of chemicals under extreme pressure to smash up the rock seam. The sand is forced into the cracks to keep them open, and the fracking process may have to be repeated several times over the life of the well, which is generally about 15 years.

Because there is a limit to the distance horizontal drilling can go, an unconventional gas field requires multiple well heads, all connected by above ground pipelines and roads, and the cracking of the rock layers increases the risk of disrupting aquifers and polluting underground water. Methane leaking along the newly formed cracks into the water table, is what is seeing water bores in Queensland spewing out more gas than water, to the point where they can be set alight.

Fracking also leads to methane leaking upwards along those cracks directly into the atmosphere, which are referred to as “fugitive emissions”, and go largely undetected and are unmeasurable. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. So these fugitive emissions are making a significant contribution to climate change.

Unconventional gas wells are closed down when gas flows drop to levels that are no longer commercially viable. So after some 15 years of production the well is sealed to prevent the remaining methane from escaping. However, those fugitive emissions will continue to flow forever, and the cement casings that line the borehole will all fail over time and also begin to leak methane. In the USA upwards of 50% of sealed wells were found to be leaking within 8 years of being abandoned.
      - John Edwards

Friday 9 November 2012

Clarence Communities Declaring Themselves CSG Free

At Kungala Hall on Sunday 4 November, residents of 25 roads from the communities of Lanitza, Kungala, Braunstone, Wells Crossing and Halfway Creek declared their roads and communities CSG FREE.  This moving celebration follows an extensive survey process whereby each resident over the age of 16 years, on each of the 25 roads, was asked the question, “Do you want your roads and lands CSG Free”. With 432 residents surveyed, only 8 said no, and 6 were unsure, giving a percentage of 95.6% not wanting gasfields in their community.

“The CSG Free Communities Strategy is a grass roots democracy process", said Lynette Eggins, CSG Free Community Coordinator in the Clarence Valley LGA. "The NSW government has failed to protect farmers and communities from invasive gasfields. Now the communities of Lanitza, Kungala, Braunstone, Wells Crossing and Halfway Creek have decided to take charge of their own destiny. After a comprehensive survey process showing overwhelming support, they have declared their communities no-go zones for gasfields. These declarations are strong statements from the people, declaring their intent to defend their community from an invasive and reckless industry. An industry that poses risks to water, land values, farming land and the health of families”

This neighbour to neighbour survey of more than 430 residents shows that the mining companies have no social licence. These communities emphatically reject unconventional gas mining in our region.” she said.

Other communities in the Clarence Valley local government area are following suit with many localities preparing to declare themselves Gasfield Free over the coming months. "People have been contacting me for advice on how to get the community survey going in their district", said Lynette Eggins, "it's fantastic to see such community spirit". This follows the trend throughout the Northern Rivers where communities have been undertaking this process over the past year. From the Queensland border, down through the Lismore area and now the Clarence, many communities have declared themselves Gasfield Free through the grass-roots community-run survey.

“Social licence to turn the Clarence Valley into gasfields? I don’t think so” said Ms Eggins.

Councillor Sue Hughes generously offered her time to accept road declarations from the delegates of each of the 25 surveyed roads, and in turn presented  residents with their Gasfield Free Road Sign. Councillor Hughes said she will table the Declarations at a Council Meeting in December. The box of 25 road Declarations from these communities can now be added to Declarations from the community of Ewingar, in the Upper Clarence, accepted by Mayor Richie Williamson at the Rock the Gate Rally in Lismore earlier this year.

“Across the Northern Rivers, communities are running with this grass-roots process",  said Annie Kia from Lock the Gate Alliance Northern Rivers, who was instrumental in developing the initiative early this year. "So far, a total of 11,590 people have responded to the survey in more than 60 communities. Of these, 96% said YES to wanting their road and community Gasfield Free. Astonishingly, only 1% said NO to going Gasfield Free, with 3% NOT SURE. This is about self-determination. Communities have a right to protect existing industries, their land, water and health. The people of the Northern Rivers clearly reject gasfield industrialisation, with all its risks."

Thursday 1 November 2012

MP Referred to ICAC over Gifts From CSG Company

Scot MacDonald, a Liberal member of the NSW upper house, the Legislative Council, is being referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) by the NSW Greens for accepting gifts from gas company Santos after making statements in favour of coal seam gas mining in NSW.  Mr MacDonald, from the Guyra area of the NSW Northern Tablelands, was elected to parliament in 2011. (Santos is the company seeking to develop a gasfield in the Pilliga woodland, an area of major ecological importance, in the central west of the state.)

As a member of the Legislative Council Committee which inquired into coal seam gas mining in NSW, Mr MacDonald made a dissenting report following the inquiry.  In this report he stated, "It is difficult to reach any other conclusion than the coal seam gas industry should be developed as quickly as possible."

Shortly after the findings of the Inquiry were made public in May, Mr MacDonald accepted from major CSG company Santos flights to and accommodation in Tasmania where he spoke at a forum alongside Santos officials on the topic of coal seam gas and agriculture.

Mr MacDonald declared both the flights and the accommodation on the pecuniary interests register and claims that he has complied with all the parliamentary guidelines.  He stated, "I have consistently said we need to ensure gas supplies for this state if it can be shown that CSG can be extracted safely and landholders are treated respectfully."

Mr MacDonald seems to be missing the point that the general community does not believe that CSG can be extracted safely. Moreover, the community does not believe that the "safeguards" the NSW Government has put in place will effectively protect both the environment and the community from damaging long-term impacts from the CSG industry.  He also seems to be unaware that export is the main focus of the companies seeking to exploit coal seam gas – not a desire to "ensure gas supplies for this state."

Greens MP, Jeremy Buckingham said, "We think it's outrageous that, while Parliament is still considering the Coal Seam Gas Inquiry Report, he accepted a gift from one of the largest coal seam gas companies, Santos."