Monday, 16 May 2011
According to The Northern Rivers Echo on 14th May 2011:
"there appear to be large reserves of conventional or natural as well as CSG (both composed largely of methane) in the Clarence Moreton Basin, which runs from south of Grafton up to the border and joins the Surat Basin in Queensland. There are currently three companies operating on the North Coast". (see map showing gas exploration in the Clarence Basin, a mid-Triassic to early Cretaceous basin)
On Friday 13th May 2011 The Daily Examiner ran an article which reported that:
“CLARENCE Valley Council is taking a “wait and see approach” to joining the chorus of Northern Rivers councils calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining.
Mayor Richie Williamson said coal seam gas mining was primarily a State Government issue.
“The state policies would come into consideration if and when there was an application for coal seam gas mining in the Clarence council local government area,” he said.
“I am aware that other councils are calling on the State Government for a moratorium, but it really is a State Government decision.
“The council hasn’t considered joining those other councils in calling for a moratorium as yet.”
Cr Williamson said the idea of fracking was a new issue for council.”
On Thursday 14th April 2011 a Duke University study (using analyzed groundwater from 68 private water wells) was approved for publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 9th May:
“Directional drilling and hydraulic-fracturing technologies are dramatically increasing natural-gas extraction. In aquifers overlying the Marcellus and Utica shale formations of northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York, we document systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shalegas extraction. In active gas-extraction areas (one or more gas wells within 1 km), average and maximum methane concentrations in drinking-water wells increased with proximity to the nearest gas well and were 19.2 and 64 mg CH4 L-1 (n 1/4 26), a potential explosion hazard; in contrast, dissolved methane samples in neighboring nonextraction sites (no gas wells within 1 km) within similar geologic formations and hydrogeologic regimes averaged only 1.1 mg L-1 (P < 0.05; n 1/4 34)…….
Our results show evidence for methane contamination of shallow drinking-water systems in at least three areas of the region and suggest important environmental risks accompanying shale-gas exploration worldwide.”
This isn’t the first science-based warning about fracking and many other councils on the NSW North Coast (Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle and Tweed) have taken note of the problems created by this type of mining - along with a growing number of areas worldwide in which fracking is banned. But the arrogant nongs currently infesting local government in the Clarence Valley are an ignorant breed apart.
Of course Clarence Valley councillors are not alone in their folly as this email from the equally foolish NSW Nationals MP for Clarence (who obviously considers himself a lobbyist for Metgasco, Santos, Petronas, Total, Shell, PetroChina & Kogas) shows:
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2011 14:55:57+1000
Subject: Re: gas in the Clarence
Thank you for your email indicating your concerns regarding coal seam gas mining in all regions of Australia.
I support coal seam gas exploration being undertaken in our area. I think the industry can deliver a lot of benefits to our community in terms of employment and economic opportunities. At the same time it is important for the industry to operate in an environmentally responsible manner and to respect the interests of landowners. As you may know we released a Strategic Land Use Policy before the election which aims to strike a balance between the interests of the different groups. A copy of the policy is attached for your interest.
Exploration licenses have been held on the Mid North Coast for decades and extensive gas exploration has been undertaken in that time with little concern from the community. Community issues seem to have only come up since the movie Gaslands has been shown in the area. You should be aware that this movie is about the Shale Gas industry in the US and has little relevance to Australian gas industry practice. The movie is not a realistic portrayal of the gas industry in Australia as both the operational activities and regulatory environments are quite different. I have attached an information factsheet about the Gaslands movie that addresses some of the inaccuracies.
The coal seam gas industry is regulated by the Department of Industry and Investment in the exploration stage of operations when notices are placed in local papers notifying the intention to grant an exploration licence. Prior to any development being undertaken an environmental assessment is undertaken and must be approved by the Department of Planning, who co-ordinates the input from all relevant NSW Government agencies, including environmental agencies. At this stage there is an extensive community consultation process. Government agencies review an extensive list of environmental factors and specifically address any impact on underground aquifers and existing or future land uses. An example of these studies can be found at: http://www.glng.com.au/Content.aspx?p=90.
The coal seam gas industry is regulated by NSW State regulation. The National Industrial Chemicals Notifications and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) is a Commonwealth authority and therefore is not a relevant agency for the purposes of regulating the industry. Several independent studies have examined the potential for water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing practices and found that the practice does not pose a threat to underground sources of drinking water. You can download the study at: http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/
Coal seam gas currently supplies over 90% of Queensland’s gas supply and is likely to become an increasingly important source of energy in NSW as well. I do believe that the industry can be developed in an environmentally acceptable manner.
Steve Cansdell, MP
Member for Clarence
"Emails between department staff (Department of Industry and Investment) and Metgasco show that testing for coal seam gas using fracking can go ahead without approval being sought or required from the Environment Department.
The practice of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to force gas to the surface."
UPDATE: I noticed that Steve Cansdell’s email contained a reference to an U.S. study rather than an Australian one. I suspected that Steve chose to ignore studies closer to home because they were not as favourable to his support of fracking on the NSW North Coast.
An investigation into the anticipated impacts of mining proposed in the Clarence-Moreton Basin communities: The Felton Project Report from the University of Queensland stable shows Valley locals may not be quite as enthusiastic as the Clarence MP expects:
Major anticipated environmental impacts which are negative are:
contaminated groundwater and damaged aquifers
capacity to successfully rehabilitate soil
reduced air quality
o Significant anticipated environmental concerns are also negative: the potential for ecosystem damage and the cumulative impact and perceived limited capacity for environmental regulation.
o Major anticipated social impacts are negative:
community tensions between mine and non-mine populations
the social dislocation of farming families
loss of visual amenity
infrastructure, particularly roads
And Steve along with Clarence Valley Council ignores the fact that the large amount of waste water produced by fracking has to go somewhere and the cheapest option available to mining companies is to have the untreated contaminated water injected into natural underground aquifers or spread across the environemnt in other ways. It’s a sure bet the NSW O’Farrell Government would allow this without so much as a solitary moment of hesitation.