Activists avoid facts again
October 9th, 2015
Anti-gas activists in NSW and South Australia have been unusually quiet in the past two weeks during a visit by a group of highly regarded scientists from three continents.
Perhaps it was because these experienced authorities declared the very opposite to the activists’ scaremongering: unconventional gas extraction is well understood, is safe and has a solid track record.
The group came together in Sydney for a conference organised by the Australian Academy of Technology, Science and Engineering (ATSE) and then travelled to Adelaide for a discussion roundtable convened by the SA Department of Sate Development (DSD).
As we have reported earlier, the Sydney conference heard that hydraulic fracturing was a well established and understood engineering process which had proved itself safe – and part of a better solution for the environment than coal-fired electricity generation.
The visiting experts — from Canada, US, UK and South Africa – were joined in Adelaide by scientists from CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and a number of private organisations.
Professor Mark Zoback, of Stanford University, was one of nine scientists to make the trip to Australia, confirming what regulators here and in the US have stated recently – there has been ‘no systemic widespread impacts to drinking water’ from hydraulic fracturing in the US.
All international speakers referred to widespread misinformation about hydraulic fracturing and other aspects of gas extraction.
Dr Damian Barrett told the forum that CSIRO was pursuing this issue to better understand impact on communities.
The CSIRO has secured funding for research into the social and environmental issues associated with gas development, including community consultation, business and employment, and decision making processes. It could be looking at as many as 20 regional locations, he said.
APPEA’s Rick Wilkinson cited experience in Chinchilla, in southern Queensland, where unemployment had dropped from 24% to 8% as gas development created business opportunities and employment in a town which had been in decline.
Anthropologist, Professor Elizabeth Eadie – from the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine -complimented the South Australian industry authorities, which she said had put substantial effort not only into the appropriate regulatory settings, but also into important community information and engagement.
It was a prime opportunity for activists to get some facts, but once again, in the face of evidence, they were nowhere to be found.