Letter to Editor, Border Watch
Veterinarian activist Geoff Manefield is again misleading Border Watch readers in his letter about “unconventional drilling” of natural gas, “commonly known as fracking”.
For a start, ‘fracking’ (full name: hydraulic fracturing) is NOT a form of drilling. It is an engineering process used to enhance gas flow in a well –and it has been used safely in South Australia since the 1960s.
I expect this confusion is an innocent misunderstanding on Mr Manefield’s part, and it really isn’t a big deal. But as a veterinarian, Mr Manefield ought be more responsible in the remarks he makes about how much harm hydraulic fracturing has supposedly caused to animals and humans.
In his letter (‘Veterinarian’s opinion confirmed following fracking investigation’ Border Watch, 21 April) Mr Manefield says scientific reports have confirmed a link between decreased birthweight and other health problems for people living within 4km of gas wells and that animals have suffered eye, respiratory, skin and gait problems.
It is not right to say these claims have been scientifically confirmed. On the contrary, the NSW Chief Scientist has stated they are untrue, adding that there is a lot of misinformation on this topic.
Again Mr Manefield may have innocently overlooked these statements, plus those by the SA Government, the Australia Chief Scientist, the CSIRO and the Australian Council of Learned Academies, all of which contradict his claims.
But he should not have failed to note the acknowledgement made by an activist presenter who went with him to the USA and who followed him in presenting to the SA Parliamentary inquiry in Robe last September. At that hearing, Dr Melissa Haswell, a member of the protest group Doctors for the Environment, quoted study findings similar to those mentioned by Mr Manefield in his letter.
However, when questioned as to whether the health concerns had been proven and whether the impacts were claimed to be airborne or through water, Dr Haswell admitted there had been no direct link established with hydraulic fracturing or gas production and that it was not clear whether the claims were about air or water.
Mr Manefield is also wrong in claiming that “fracking had not infrequently contaminated aquifers and rendered them unfit for human use…”
As the NSW Chief Scientist concluded after her 18-month investigation, there is NO evidence of hydraulic fracturing contaminating aquifers in Australia or elsewhere.
Mr Manefield and others are entitled to express opinions, but they should learn to responsibly separate assertions from proven facts – especially if they lay claim to some form of scientific qualification themselves.
Director, Energy Resource Information Centre