Activist evidence fails to impress
February 12th, 2015
As a regional anti-CSG group gears up for a campaign to try and debunk the NSW Government’s Gas Plan, it’s worth taking a look at the claims being made by the experts they quote about the safety of the natural gas industry.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, a local activist group based on the New South Wales North Coast (and who disclaim their own website information with the following statement: “We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the absolute accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the content”), has apparently launched a self-funded campaign aimed at the Gas Plan.
A spokesman for the group told the Lismore Northern Star newspaper that “we want a gasfield ban, not a gasfield plan”.
That’s the slogan sorted then, now for the content.
By the looks of the article, the group will be heavily reliant on the work of the National Toxics Network (NTN) and in particular, the research of Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, who told the Northern Star that:
“Most of the chemicals used in fracking fluids still haven’t been assessed for their effects on human health and the environment.
“There are no effective … options for managing the gas industry’s extensive wastes and waste water”
On the issue of emissions, she went on to say:
“Fugitive emissions … are fugitive by nature because they’re uncontrollable.”
If those lines sound familiar, it’s because they are part of the NTN’s mantra against unconventional gas development – a mantra that has been exported by Dr Lloyd-Smith and others to the United Kingdom.
Dr Lloyd-Smith spoke to community groups in the Falkirk region of Scotland in mid-2013, and in 2014 gave evidence via video conference to a Scottish Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals hearing at an appeal by Dart Energy Scotland into the refusal of planning permission for a gas development project.
The limitations of giving evidence by videoconference on the other side of the world are evident in the transcript of the hearing, so instead, let’s take a look at what the closing submission by Dart Energy’s legal team says about the evidence given by Dr Lloyd-Smith.
On the issue of claims made about chemical and compound use in hydraulic fracturing:
“It is very difficult indeed to understand why an experienced professional like Dr Lloyd-Smith continues to suggest that salt, citric acid, or other chemicals listed by her are hazardous and a threat to health. They are not and I submit that suggestion or allegation should not be made by a professional person acting reasonably and responsibly.” (page 38)
On the responsibility to present accurate information:
“It follows then that when Dr Lloyd Smith gives a talk, or makes allegations, about UCG (unconventional gas) the ordinary man in the street or member of the community will listen to, be influenced by, and attach weight to what Dr Lloyd Smith says.
It is therefore not just appropriate but actually essential that what Dr Lloyd Smith says is truthful, accurate and does not unnecessarily exaggerate issues. If this was to happen members of the community would be unnecessarily alarmed, misinformed and would base any objection on an incorrect improper factual basis.” (Page 77)
The submission goes into great detail on issues relating to a talk that Dr Lloyd-Smith gave to community groups, citing examples of why the contents of that speech had absolutely no relevance to the Dart Energy situation, and in the closing section states:
“I have to submit with considerable regret that the talk given by Dr Lloyd Smith was not fair, reasonable or even relevant. It was entirely irrelevant. In addition worse still it was in parts untrue and or exaggerated.” (page 84)
Keep those remarks in the back of your mind when considering comments and claims by the National Toxics Network.