Friday, 20 May 2011

Environmentalists, scientists and farmers unite

As we wait to find out the NSW government’s plans for coal seam gas (CSG) mining in NSW, an unlikely alliance has formed between environmentalists, scientists and farmers.

QGC gas fields near Chinchilla, Queensland
 Along with landholders from rural and metropolitan NSW, they attended a public forum on the environmental implications of coal seam gas and coal mining in NSW on 16 May at the University of Sydney.

A large panel at the forum included scientists, farmers, and one very nervous spokesman from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, APPEA Ross Dunn, APPEA’s CSG Director for Queensland, was supposed to be joined by Robbert de Weijer from Dart Energy (exploration in St Peters, Sydney and at Putty) who failed to arrive from Brisbane due to the Qantas strike. Most of the questions during the Q&A session were directed at Ross.

Ross Dunn’s view of CSG mining
  • Provides jobs and economic opportunities in rural communities
  • Renewables are for the future as we don’t have the production levels for an alternative base load, so we need something in between.
  • Presently solar and wind are more expensive
  • If BHP could find a quid in renewable energy they’d be doing it
  • We can produce gas without stuffing the environment
  • We need to have a good relationship with landholders. We need to talk to them early, often and compensate fairly.
Points Made
  • A third of Australia potentially has coal resources
  • Methane is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas
  • CSG wells are drilled to 1000 metres
  • Roads and pipes for CSG mining disrupt farming on prime farming land
  • Large quantities of saline water, a product of mining, are not being reused at present
Scientists’ Concerns
  • The loss of arable land
  • Protecting water resources and aquatic ecosystems
  • Altered groundwater/ depths and quality
  • Fate of saline water or salts extracted from water
  • Fate of soil and chemicals in fracking
  • 2 out of 23 fracking chemicals have been assessed by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
Suggested Solutions
  • Long term land use planning - define the no go areas and look at where mining can be conducted safely.
  • Look at whole systems – a holistic approach
  • Conduct a scientific study on the affects of CSG mining on water and the artesian basin. Does CSG mining have an ecological footprint greater than coal?
  • All developments should be in line with maintaining State targets for Natural Resource Assets of land water and biodiversity
  • Impacts of CSG mining should be assessed up front, before exploration
  • Reform the mining Acts for coal and gas to bring them in line with Ecologically Sustainable Development principles and the objectives of the Native Vegetation and Water Management Acts
  • Limit the number of wells
  • Instead of developing an intermediate industry, invest in renewable energy technologies and export these to the world.
The Greens want a full moratorium on Coal Seam Gas exploration and mining until such time as it can be shown to be safe.

The NSW Farmers Association calls for a pause on new mining exploration and production licences as a transition to their proposed Framework for Sustainable Development.

Dr John Williams, head of the NSW Natural Resources Commission
Australia urgently needs more sustainable land use planning before allowing further coal seam gas mining. We don’t want more fractured fragmented landscapes like the Hunter that lead to nothing but pain.’

Fiona Simpson, Vice President of NSW Farmers Federation
‘We need to pause and get it right so we don’t end up like Queensland.’

Associate Professor Ruth Colagiuri, University of Sydney Medical School
‘Health is the most viable asset we have. Do we want health or wealth or do we want a balance?’

Jeremy Buckingham, Greens’ member in the NSW Upper House – ‘Do we need this industry? It shouldn’t have winners and losers.’

Jacinta Green, No Gas Mining in Sydney, learnt about CSC mining after finding out that Dart Energy was proposing to drill an exploration hole 200 metres from her local park and 500 metres from her home in St Peters in Sydney. Since then she has talked to many people at rallies and discovered that ‘if CSG mining goes ahead it doesn’t matter where you live, your food and water will be affected’.

Another week goes by and no approval for exploration at Putty.

This week’s links-

ABC - Queensland CSG companies begin water studies

Gladstone Observer - LNG wildlife deaths on Curtis Island

Next week
I’m going to a forum on Mining Law in NSW at Mudgee. But for now here’s a link to the NSW Farmers Association – Negotiating Access Agreements – Property Owner Basics 

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