Open letter to the Editor: SMH

October 3rd, 2014

Your article on the findings of the NSW Chief Scientist report into coal seam gas (‘Coal seam gas will have ‘unintended consequences’, says chief scientist’, SMH, Oct 2) accurately identified details of the report, but managed to skip the overall conclusion – that the industry could proceed safely, with appropriate safeguards.

Inclusion of commentary from anti-gas activists choosing to focus on details about risks is understandable and expected. But surely it is relevant that the Chief Scientist found that the industry was mature and had a track record and sufficient knowhow to successfully manage the risks?

The fact is that after 18 months of global research, the Chief Scientist found no evidence of causal link between CSG and human harm, and that the industry had proven its capability to manage risks such as aquifer protection – over a 13-year history in the case of Camden, south of Sydney.

The point on aquifer protection is relevant because gas industry opponents frequently claim evidence of aquifer contamination – and your article is an example. However, the Chief Scientist reports no such evidence. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency says that in over a million cases of hydraulic fracturing, there has not been a single case of aquifer contamination.

The Pilliga incident mentioned in your article was NOT aquifer contamination – it was a small leak from a surface containment pond, which the NSW government investigated and confirmed posed no health risk. To reinforce the conclusion, NSW Minister Anthony Roberts went to the area and drank the surface water, without suffering any ill health.

If there was any doubt of interpretation, the Chief Scientist cleared it in an interview on Radio National today. When asked if the science is proven on the key element of water and salt management, she replied “Yes, I think the science is in.”

Steve Wright
Director, Energy Resource Information Centre

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