Friday, 14 September 2012

Groundwater depletion as El Nino returns

The Liberal Party may have a clever media strategy but broken promises will not be ignored; the Green’s Jeremy Buckingham reports on a Frack Finding Tour of the US; and as the NSW government gives mining companies permission to deplete our groundwater is El Nino back?

After the Liberal party polled well at council elections on 8 September, the NSW Government announces cuts to education and the green light for coal seam gas on 11 September.

The government’s media strategy of releasing two unpopular new policies on the same day guaranteed minimal media coverage as they competed against each other and with stories commemorating September 11, 2001.

The Government can now not deny that they have broken their election promise of protecting agricultural land and the environment. Nowhere in NSW is safe from coal seam gas.

The Greens Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill 2012 was launched at Parliament House on 11 September. Jeremy Buckingham discussed the bill and reported on his recent Frack Finding Tour of the US. He is the only member of the NSW parliament to have toured the gas fields of the US, which have been producing shale gas for about 20 years.

Shale gas is extracted from a different underground strata than coal seam gas, but the infrastructure above ground is the same. Gas dominates the landscape in both country areas and in the cities. Jeremy believes it is impossible for farming and coal seam gas extraction to co-exist because of the amount of infrastructure needed - roads, pipelines and high voltage powerlines.

In the US, after only eight years the infrastructure rusts due to the high salt content in the water. Regulations cannot keep up with expansion so the industry does what it wants. Impacts on communities are ignored while the crime rate soars in areas where fly in fly out workers are employed.

Patriotism and easy money ensures farmers say yes to wells on their properties. They are told if they don’t allow it the country has to rely on importing oil from the Middle East.

The farmers now admit that although they have made good money, it is not worth it. Their properties are devalued by rotting infrastructure, salty soil which will not grow anything, depleted and polluted water. Mining companies are abandoning wells as gas prices fall and it is left to the farmers to cap the wells at great expense.

Shale gas requires more fracking and removes more water from underground than CSG. The damage may be less but it still happens. In the US some people are provided by the mining companies with reverse osmosis water filters for their drinking water. Others are advised to open their windows when they turn their taps on because of the fumes. Skin peels off children when they bath in the water.

Unlike the US, Australia has a large national lobby group which has successfully delayed the rapid expansion of this industry. Regulations have been put in place but our agricultural land, environmentally sensitive areas and water catchments are still under threat from an industry which will deplete our precious groundwater (see CSIRO media release on this blog) and there is a possibility of polluting it.

Meanwhile in the next room to Jeremy’s presentation there was a Mining Industry Leaders Conference. No orange juice and water there. Drinks were laid on as the suits filed in through the door.

In August Putty had 10mm of rain and to date this month 1mm has been recorded. This is a sign that the next El Nino weather pattern of low rainfall is here. Can we afford to deplete the groundwater when many towns rely on it for drinking water and farmers need it for stock and to irrigate their crops?

1 comment:

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