State regulator and scientists offer more facts, less fear
June 11th, 2015
The Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP), the State regulator for the onshore oil and gas industry, made its water, environment and policy experts available in Perth this week ( 8-9 June) for a Water Management for Shale and Tight Gas Resources seminar to refute misleading and inaccurate claims being made against industry.
The event was organised by the WA branches of the Association of Hydrogeologists, Society of Petroleum Engineers and the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists. It was designed to facilitate a better understanding and appreciation for water management during onshore oil and gas activities.
DMP Director General Richard Sellers said recently he was impressed by the line-up of speakers and the range of topics being addressed.
“This is a gathering of minds in the areas of hydrogeology, geophysics and engineering that is focused on protecting Western Australia’s groundwater.”
“The role of the State Government representatives attending the seminar is to tell industry professionals and scientists how the shale and tight gas and hydraulic fracturing will be regulated in Western Australia to make sure that companies do the right thing and the environment and communities are protected.”
That’s fair enough and a terrific step by the Government to ensure everyone is on the same page.
The same can’t be said about local activists, including the Conservation Council of WA, who have been quick to attack the seminar’s credibility and criticise the industry, the regulators and even the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, by claiming they lack transparency and for what they claim is the use of spin.
It’s an old ploy – criticise your opponent for lacking transparency by being opaque and not using fact based arguments yourself, and then use spin to articulate them.
Activists in Western Australia, on the NSW North Coast and in the north-east of United States continue to use emotive and dramatic words and images because it gets them media attention.
CCWA and the wider activist community should pay careful attention to the NSW Chief Scientist’s report which last year declared fracking a “low risk” activity which the industry had the capability and experience to safely manage.
The report noted there was a lot of misinformation about fracking, an observation also made by WA Cabinet Minister Bill Marmion in a recent article in The West Australian .
When eminent authorities such as the NSW Chief Scientist, the CSIRO and even the US Environment Protection Agency dismiss the extreme claims, activists simply turn up the volume and claim spin.
It is easy to find the claims and easy to repeat them as they attempt to win an argument through fear and misinformation rather than by fact.
Their mistake is in thinking farmers and urban dwellers aren’t as sophisticated as they really are. The community’s ability to test the veracity of a claim through fact checking resources such as this website means the activists’ are digging deeper into their lexicon of emotive and voice trembling verbiage to gain any traction in the community.
That is why the DMP is also right in saying there is an important role for the natural gas industry and regulators in trying to tell the full story to communities, clearly, openly and simply.
That is what WA companies, with the support of the regulators, are trying to achieve: circulating science, fact and industry experience to facilitate a platform for a meaningful conversation about the risks and management of the onshore oil and gas industry.