Activists gearing up to flood Senate inquiry with emotive and inaccurate submissions

January 21st, 2016

Activists are gearing up to flood a Senate inquiry into Coal Seam Gas with form letter submissions littered with inaccurate, emotive statements more aimed at attracting headlines than reflecting verifiable facts.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne has produced a guide telling their supporters exactly what to say in submissions to the upcoming Lazarus inquiry. As an exercise in hyperbole, it’s a cracker.

Let’s take a look at what FoE is telling people to include to make submissions more ‘powerful’ – beyond their initial exhortation to:

“Make it clear in your opening statement that you do not support any form of unconventional gas mining (including coal seam gas, tight gas, shale gas & underground coal gasification)”.

The suggested inclusions range from the emotive (‘unconventional gas is the asbestos of our time’) to widely debunked claims about health impacts – including making references to a report written by Brisbane GP Geralyn McCarron into symptoms allegedly caused by gasfields on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

We’ve covered that report before, but it’s worth revisiting.

Allegations about health impacts of gas operations on local residents in Queensland’s Tara estate have been examined in detail by Queensland Health.

Their summary report, which is publicly available, found no clear link between emissions from CSG activities and health complaints from residents, stating:

The available evidence does not support the concern among some residents that excessive exposure to emissions from the CSG activities is the cause of the symptoms they have reported

An independent medical practitioner was also engaged to carry out separate investigations including visiting the area and interviewing residents and carrying out medical examinations where required.

His report was released in February 2013.He commented:

Given the apparent level of community concern, I was perhaps surprised that a relatively small number of people elected to come and see me.

In the report Dr Keith Adams states:

  • I was unable to find any objective evidence of the clinical conditions which were reported
  • Exposure to coal seam gas has now occurred for many years, first in coal miners and now in the coal seam gas drilling industry without evidence of unique or substantial harm to employees in those industries
  • I would expect that the circumstances of exposure described to me for the most part would lead to relatively low levels of exposure, given the distance between the homes of affected individuals and wells and the testing results made available to me would support that presumption (Reference: Dr Keith Adams Medibank Health Solutions – “Health Effects of Coal Seam Gas – Tara, February 2013)

A further report was carried out by the Queensland Department of Health considering a previous report by the Darling Downs Health Unit, Dr Adams’ report and environmental monitoring data from Southern Cross University in respect of fugitive emissions.

It concluded that:

Based on the clinical and environmental monitoring data available for this summary risk assessment, a clear link cannot be drawn between the health complaints of some residents in the Tara region and impacts of the local CSG industry on air, water or soil within the community. The available evidence does not support the concern among some residents that excessive exposure to emissions from the CSG activities is the cause of the symptoms they have reported. (Reference: Queensland Department of Health – “Coal Seam Gas in the Tara Region: Summary risk assessment of health complaints and environmental monitoring date – March 2013)

Besides emotive and unproven health claims, FoE lists a litany of supposed environmental, agricultural and social issues that they attribute – without evidence – to the gas industry.

It’s widely expected that the Lazarus inquiry will become a platform for these kinds of claims to be aired again and again.

Let’s hope that the committee members look beyond groupthink template submissions.

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