NSW activists ignore their own history with ‘doomsday’ talk
June 2nd, 2017
A couple of years back, the Aussie movie ‘Frackman’ breathlessly warned us that the world was doomed if hydraulic fracturing was allowed in Queensland.
This movie followed the template set in the American ‘Gasland’ movie, which predicted the picturesque state of Pennsylvania would be reduced to an “industrial wasteland” if fracking took hold.
Almost a decade since the first activism, and the fly-in celebrity protests in Dimock, Pennsylvania, we can collectively breathe a sigh of relief: the world has not been destroyed, nor has pretty countryside been turned to ‘wasteland’ in Queensland or Pennsylvania.
As we have previously reported, not only are Queensland and Pennsylvania booming with new industry, employment and local commerce, they are still as pretty as ever.
The same message of doom was being sprouted in north-west New South Wales this week, via an enviro-activist rant published in Narrabri’s Courier, newspaper.
In typical style, this particular correspondent ignored the lack of devastation in Queensland and the home of the US shale gas industry, Pennsylvania. He also completely overlooked the 15-year history of safe coal-seam gas production at Camden (near Sydney) in his home State, NSW.
It is not even clear from his melodramatic letter that he realises there is actually no plan to do hydraulic fracturing (dubbed ‘fracking’ by activists) to release gas in the Narrabri project.
As a result of numerous briefings by project proponent Santos and by specialists from the NSW Government, Narrabri locals realise this is a coal-seam gas project where fracking will not be needed and an iron-clad commitment given it will not be used in the future.
There is nothing mysterious about CSG. A coal seam is just one of the geological formations where natural gas can be found, deep underground (typically half a kilometre or more below any groundwater). The gas itself is the same stuff which has been safely developed in the Northern Territory, all mainland Australian States, Europe and North America for more than 100 years.
A CSG operation has been safely providing NSW’s only natural gas for the past 15 years at Camden, on the outskirts of Sydney. Camden is no ‘wasteland’ either.
As southern Sydney expands, the semi-rural setting there is becoming increasingly urbanised – and the presence of a gas field is not deterring new home builders who certainly do not see themselves as building in an industrial zone.
Thousands of people drive past the area every day on their way in and out of Sydney and most would not even notice the gas facilities because they are passing a normal semi-rural environment with tractors, sheds, houses and healthy humans, cows and horses – and increasing numbers of houses.
The Camden gas wells, the local air and water are constantly monitored. No problem has occurred, even though a handful of wells are actually submerged every time the sluice gates to the Warragamba dam are opened. Even with this frequent ‘flooding’, there is no contamination. It is hard to imagine a more relevant example of safety than Sydney’s main water supply.
As for the supposed end of agriculture, there are 5000 landholders in south-west Queensland who are continuing their usual farming and other activities, but now have the benefit of gas-well income as well as some with extra water and better roads and fences. And their additional income does not dry up in a bad year.
All of the issues raised in the alarmist letter to The Courier this week are addressed in the Narrabri Project Environmental Impact statement and have been discussed in the public briefings – with the possible exception of the “heavy metal rain” supposedly set to fall from gas flares.
My guess is this is not mentioned because it is plain nonsense – on a par with the “acid rain” claim made in Queensland years ago, which was promptly dismissed by reliable authorities such as the CSIRO.
Coincidentally, the “Doom, destruction and the end of agriculture” letter was published at the same time as the Narrabri Shire was moving to set the record straight on comments attributed to it in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week.
In a “Media Statement clarification”, the Council described the SMH article as an example of “sensationalism” which attempted to portray the Council as holding a negative view of the Narrabri Gas Project.
In a Facebook post, the Council’s Director Development and Economic Growth, Mr Tony Meppen, said he was describing comments made by locals affected by dust from coal mining (not gas production).
Mr Meppen said he was expressing the view of those affected – “not that of Narrabri Shire Council”.
It is entirely appropriate for a local council to represent the views of its constituents — and it is also incumbent on a major newspaper, with regional affiliates dotted over northern NSW, to report accurately and without bias.
Letter to the Editor, Narrabri Courier, 6 June 2017 – Steve Wright, ERIC Director
Letter to the Editor, Narrabri Courier, 6 June 2017 – Louise Tout, Yes 2 Gas