Thursday, 23 October 2014

Shorter Doctors for the Environment Australia - Dear Tony, pull you head in

Letter to the Prime Minister 16-10-14

Dear Prime Minister, 

We are writing to strongly reject your statements made on Monday 13 October regarding coal mining.

There is no justification for the pronouncement that “coal is good for humanity”. It is in direct contradiction to all the available public health evidence. 

There is ample evidence, which we have supplied to your office, documenting the adverse health impacts that arise from air pollution (and other environmental impacts) in both coal mining communities and resulting from coal combustion more widely. In the USA, it is estimated that 23,000 people lose their lives prematurely every year as a result of coal combustion alone. This is of course exactly why the USA and Chinese governments are moving to restrict coal burning near their major cities.

The economic costs arising from coal fired power stations have been assessed by US economist William Nordhaus (2011) and found to outweigh the value provided by as much as 5.6 times. All recently published work in this area is consistent on this point. The only reason coal can be made to appear economically viable is by the deliberate exclusion of these health and environmental costs. 

The argument that providing coal based energy is essential for improving poverty in the developing world is also not supported by the available evidence. In fact, the health impacts from coal outweigh health gains in all but the very poorest of nations. Even then, the benefit is marginal. Moreover, energy poverty can be, and is being, addressed using non-fossil fuel energy sources that do not have the same detrimental health or environmental costs.

Use of fossil fuels, including coal, has been incontrovertibly linked to climate change. Climate change is now recognised as the greatest threat to our health this coming century (Lancet 2009). It is also the case that the poorest nations will be disproportionally impacted by the effects of climate change and the least able to adapt. If we are genuine about acting in the interests of humanity, then our focus must be to assist these developing countries with renewable energy technology and rapidly decarbonise our economy, which incidentally is the highest per capita emitter in the developed world.

In light of these facts, it was very disturbing to health professionals to hear the statements made by you regarding coal on Monday. It is unacceptable to trade Australia’s public health for short term economic benefit. Yet this is exactly what your government is promoting.

For these reasons, we seek an urgent response and explanation from your office and ask that your statement be retracted.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Kingsley Faulkner AM
Doctors for the Environment Australia

Sometimes NSW Police make me cringe in shame - Part 2

New Matilda 16 October 2014:

Four police officers will stand trial over allegations they bashed an Aboriginal man, who was originally falsely charged with assaulting a constable before CCTV footage cleared him during the incident on the NSW north coast in 2011.
Constable Lee Walmsley, Constable Ryan Eckersley, former Sergeant Robert McCubben and Senior Constable Mark Woolven will stand trial after waiving a right to a committal hearing at the Downing Local Court, the ABC reported today.
They have pleaded not guilty.
It follows an incident involving the then 23-year-old Corey Barker in Ballina on January 14, 2011.
Mr Barker was arrested after intervening in an altercation between two of his friends and police.
He was originally charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer after being taken to Ballina Police Station, charges which were overturned when the restored CCTV footage, previously believed to be damaged, unveiled a different version of events.
Ballina Local Court Magistrate David Heilpern overturned the charges, ordered the NSW Police pay Mr Barker’s costs and referred the matter to the Police Integrity Commission.
The PIC handed down its report in 2013, recommending criminal charges for six of the officers involved. The ABC reported a total of 25 charges were laid against the officers. A fifth officer will also waive his right to a committal hearing.

The trial will start in 2015.

Sometimes NSW Police make me cringe in shame - Part 1 here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Troy Who? Potted profile of the new Deputy-Premier of New South Wales

Last week Andrew Stoner resigned as Leader of the NSW National Party and Deputy-Premier.

He was replaced by Troy Grant who has been in parliament for less than four years.

This is Mr. Grant, seen here with NSW Premier Mike Baird in the background:

So who is this new Deputy-Premier?

Based on his NSW Parliament member's disclosure form, own website and media reports, here is a potted profile.......

Troy Wayne Grant
* Age: Early 40s
* Married with two children.
* Resides at 10L Toorale Rd, Dubbo NSW.
* Home owner on a rural residential lot, with a $330,000 mortgage and a personal loan.
* Sole income appears to be parliamentary salary.
* Former NSW Police officer. Resigned from force in March 2011 after 22 years with rank of police inspector.
* Elected to NSW Parliament in March 2011 as the National Party Member for Dubbo.
* Appeared as a witness at the Special Commission of Inquiry concerning the investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Hunter region in 2013.
* Reportedly referred the Planning Assessment Commission's (PAC) approval of the Orange City Council's Macquarie River pipeline, to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 2013.
* Became Minister for Gaming, Racing and Hospitality and Minister for the Arts in April 2014.
* Became Leader of the NSW National Party and Deputy-Premier in October 2014 – as well as Minister for Trade and Investments, Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services and Minister for Tourism and Major Events.
* He is recorded in the NSW Legislative Council Hansard as opening his mouth to speak a total of 200 times up to 16 October 2014 (including interjections).
* Like many politicians he indulges in gratuitous insults, such as I was happy to answer the first question because it would have been interesting to answer a question about muppets and puppets from a clown and go and get f — ed.
* Likes to blow his own trumpet, loudly and often.

Not Happy, Richie!

If this  account is factual then it seems there is no good deed that Clarence Valley Council is not prepared to punish.....


Clarence Valley Council issued this statement on 20 October 2014 but did not send it to North Coast Voices until after publication:

Clarence Valley Council environment, planning and community director, Des Schroder, said fining people was always a last resort and it was disappointing they needed to be issued on this occasion. He said council rangers and staff from State Government agencies had been called to the site a number of times and at all hours. “We have an obligation to take action to stop stock getting onto roadways – particularly highways – where they can pose a serious risk to the travelling public,” he said. He said council staff had spoken with the stock owner this morning and advised him that if he wanted to contest the fines he could do that through the State Debt Recovery Office and the courts.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Metgasco Limited v Minister for Resources and Energy: Managing Director gives evidence

Metgasco Managing Director Peter Henderson gave evidence in Metgasco Limited v Minister for Resources and Energy (Case # 201400165970) before the NSW Supreme Court on 20 October 2014.

ABC News reported on the same day:

Managing Director Peter Henderson told the Supreme Court drilling at the Rosella well was not in order to find coal seam gas but rather "conventional" gas.
But he agreed there was community concern the extraction could involve fracking.
Mr Henderson could not recall police at one stage telling him there may have been more than 2,000 protesters at the Rosella site.
He said Metgasco had been in the Northern Rivers area for about a decade and had previously drilled 50 wells there.
When questioned about community opposition to another well in the area, the Kingfisher Well, he said: "I can't remember any newspaper or public discussion."


On 14 May 2014 the Office of Coal Seam Gas OCSG put a hold on Metgasco's approval to drill an exploration well at Bentley, near Casino in the Northern Rivers, on the basis that the company was not in compliance with its community consultation obligations under Petroleum Exploration Licence 16 (PEL 16).

Excerpt from Council acts on CSG tip off in the Northern Rivers Echo, 10 November 2011:

Lismore City Council has withdrawn support for seismic testing by Metgasco on Council-owned land in the Rock Valley area after discovering staff had approved an application without the councillors' knowledge.
On September 1 a Council staffer sent a letter to Metgasco approving the testing, but it wasn't until after Tuesday night's Council meeting that councillors became aware of the approval.
Having learnt of an application by Metgasco, Mayor Jenny Dowell moved an 'urgency motion' during the meeting that all requests for CSG and mineral testing or exploration on Council owned or administered land be brought before the Council for consideration. However it wasn't until after the motion had been passed and the meeting concluded that Mayor Dowell became aware that approval had already been granted following a discussion with Rock Valley resident Wanda Halden, who had been liaising with Council staff. Mayor Dowell took swift action and by Wednesday lunchtime Metgasco had been advised that Council's permission had been rescinded….

Greens fear rash of CSG wells, ABC Regional News, 13 December 2011:

The Greens fear that 500 or more coal seam gas (CSG) wells are planned for the New South Wales north coast.
Mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham says Metgasco has reluctantly revealed its future plans for the region during hearings of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas.
Mr Buckingham says such developments will ruin the north coast's environment.
"We believe that if they are to go ahead with their plans for the power station and also a pipeline up the Lyons Way that they would need somewhere between 500 and 1,500 [wells]," he said.
"But the scale of the industry is beginning to emerge and the question is now where do Metgasco plan to put these 500 wells?"
Meanwhile, Metgaco says it has never tried to deceive the public about its fracking operations on the north coast.
Kyogle's Group Against Gas says the company used fracking in the Kingfisher well a year ago.
Metgasco's managing director, Peter Henderson, says that information was made public and he thinks claims that the company tried to hide the fact are unfair.
"No I don't think it's fair. We try to be open and transparent," he said.
"I'd have to say though in a climate like this where there's a lot of misinformation going about and a lot of accusations that are simply uninformed, we probably do need to be careful about the words we use simply to make sure that people respond to the right information.
"But we do our best to be open and transparent. There are no secrets."

Excerpt from Metgasco says it needs 1000 wells, ABC North Coast NSW, 28 May 2012:

Metgasco says it will need about 1000 wells operating in the Casino area to make its economic forecasts come true.

Excerpt from Being fair to all is tough editorial in The Daily Examiner, 9 January 2013, page 10:

A quick glance at our web stats shows more than 300 stories on the CSG issue over the past year.

Excerpts from Metgasco chief issues statement on Kingfisher incident* in The Northern Star, 3 October updated 4 October 2013:

* NIMBIN Environment Centre has accused coal seam gas company Metgasco of initially understating the seriousness of a dangerous incident at its Kingfisher well in July.
And Environment Centre secretary Alan Roberts has said the degraded state of pipes shot from the well, which is on the outskirts of Casino, in the incident meant it was likely toxins associated with coal seam gas drilling had migrated into the water table.
The incident has been the subject of an investigation by the NSW Government's Mine Safety Investigation Unit, as reported last week by The Northern Star, which found some workers at the site "were put at serious risk of harm from falling pipes".
No-one was injured in the incident but it caused "significant" equipment damage, the government report says.
However, in a statement released by the Nimbin Environment Centre, Mr Roberts says Metgasco downplayed the incident.
* METGASCO has rejected claims it understated the seriousness of the incident at its Kingfisher well in July and that toxins were able to pass into groundwater. The company has said it plans to release a statement tomorrow responding to the claims by the Nimbin Environment Centre…..
* METGASCO chief executive and managing director Peter Henderson has issued the following statement regarding the dangerous incident at the Kingfisher well, on the outskirts of Casino, in July….

* Fifteen online reader comments were listed below this article.

Excerpt from The Battle of Bentley* in the Northern Rivers Echo, 7 January 2014:

Metgasco has announced it will be targeting tight gas in upcoming drilling activities.

The company states that the Rosella exploration well at Bentley is targeting tight gas in the Gatton Sandstone formation and looking to the "confirm tight gas potential in the broader exploration area".

 * A tight gas reservoir is one that cannot be produced at economic flow rates or recover economic volumes of gas unless the well is stimulated by a large hydraulic fracture treatment and/or produced using horizontal wellbores.[Oil & Gas Journal, digital magazine]

Excerpt from Protesters resume waiting game as Metgasco drilling on hold in The Northern Star, 2 April 2014:

But Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson refuted claims Monday morning's 2000-strong turnout had derailed the company's plans, saying activities were "influenced by weather and availability of the drilling rig, neither of which we control".

Excerpts from Up to their necks in it, farmers lead coal seam gas protests by example in The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2014:

* Near Lismore late last month, about 2000 people gathered on a rural property to prevent mining company Metgasco from starting exploratory gas drilling in the area….
* Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson claims opposition to gas mining is driven by a core group of "professional protesters".
"They're the people who tend to be the mainstays, quite often the troublemakers ... they are basically anarchists," he said. "When the television cameras come they tend to get to the back and they push a local farmer to the front."
But Environmental Defenders Office principal solicitor Sue Higginson said local opposition to mining projects, including from farmers, was genuine.
"We are seeing 75-year-old blokes standing locked on to machinery for nine hours after getting up at 3am to make a difference, to try to be heard by a system they believe is not listening," she said.

Excerpts from Police should have stepped in at Bentley sooner: Metgasco* in The Northern Star, 14 August 2014:

* POLICE should have intervened at Bentley before the situation escalated to a crisis point where 800 officers were needed, Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said.
Mr Henderson was commenting on government documents released last week describing the unprecedented tactics used by activists and the "high to extreme" risk to the public and police of any confrontation.
In hindsight, he said the best time for police to act was when protesters had first established a presence outside the proposed drilling site in January….
* The company had asked police to "go in early" and arrest protesters breaking the law, given Metgasco's past experience at previous blockades at Doubtful Creek and Glenugie…

* Seventeen online reader comments under this article

NSW Government Trade & Investment PEL 16 map showing the number and location of Metgasco exploration wells:

NIKON-WALKLEY COMMUNITY/REGIONAL PRIZE 2014 - Winner is photographer Adam Hourigan from The Daily Examiner, Clarence Valley

Adam Hourigan, The Daily Examiner, “Images from The Daily Examiner”
Eric Lyons and the iconic caravan on the Yamba Rd at Palmers Island 

Adam Hourigan shows strong skills and creativity in a body of work that is both emotive and well-executed. From horse racing at the Clarence River Jockey Club to a lucky escape on the Pacific Highway and a 60th wedding anniversary snuggle in the cinema, Adam’s portfolio shows his commitment to providing a small regional newspaper with exceptional imagery.
Judges for the 2014 Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism were: Stuart Hannagan, Jon Reid, Renee Nowytarger, David Dare Parker and Jack Picone.