Tuesday 13 August 2013


After a quiet period following the drilling at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek, coal seam gas (CSG) company Metgasco has embarked on a public relations campaign.

Late in July it claimed it had broad community support in the NSW Northern Rivers for its CSG mining activities. The claim in Lismore’s Northern Star was based on a poll conducted by Richmond River Council in the Casino area.

In the poll respondents were asked, “If the Coal Seam Gas industry in the Richmond Valley resulted  in increased employment, economic welfare for the region and was adequately regulated and proven to be environmentally safe, how supportive would you be of Richmond Valley Council working with CSG stakeholders and regulators to ensure the community benefit from this industry?”

Boudicca Cerise, spokesperson for  CSG Free Northern Rivers, rejected Metgasco's claim saying the poll was a "blatant example of push polling, a method where  the pollster attempts to influence the outcome by asking leading questions that 'push' the respondent towards adopting a particular position."

Ms Cerise compared the results of this dubious poll with the community-run surveys of more than 20,000 residents in the Northern Rivers in which there was a 95% "yes" response to the question "Do you want your roads/lands gasfield free?"  This level of response was also recorded in the Richmond River Council area.

Ms Cerese also referred to Metgasco claims that it would return to the region with a focus on 'conventional gas prospects' as a "similar illustration of the company's reliance on spin  and misinformation to push their corporate agenda of making a quick profit at the expense of local communities and the environment."

She pointed out that many of the gas-bearing sandstone structures in the area are 'tight gas reservoirs' that "are likely to need extensive fracking to be commercially viable" and that Metgasco is very well aware of this.  Furthermore, she said that the local community would not be fooled by these claims relating to 'conventional gas'.
In another move to influence public opinion Metgasco wrote to north coast schools offering to send staff members to the schools as well as providing them with documentaries about the energy industry. According to the  ABC report on this, the NSW Education Department policy document states that "discussion of controversial issues is only acceptable when it clearly serves educative purposes and is consistent with curriculum objectives".  So it's unlikely that Metgasco will be able to spread its message through school students.

It will be interesting to see what other tactics Metgasco will use to attempt to convince the Northern Rivers community that its CSG mining will benefit the area.