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Coal Seam Gas – Learning from the Lismore Experience

By Natasha Stafford, Albury

I moved to Albury from Lismore, in Northern NSW, four months ago. In Lismore I was deeply concerned about the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) mining on the community and was therefore shocked to learn that CSG exploration might occur in the Corowa region too.

The experiences of the communities of Kogan and Tara (west of Brisbane in Queensland) have had a big effect on the people of Lismore as they are only a few hundred kilometres away.

Brian Monk, who farms 5,000 acres outside Kogan, has an exploratory CSG well on his property. According to Brian, the gas company ‘proved to be liars from the start’. A supposedly safe process caused alarming signs of toxicity in the house’s bore water supply. His grandchildren bathed in the water and screamed in pain, as skin exposed to the water burned a deep red colour. Frogs living in tanks died. Pipes shake with the pressure of gas in the water, and catch on fire when lit with a naked flame. Brian calls himself a ‘CSG refugee’ because damage to water and falling levels of aquifers are making his farm unusable.

Marion Palmer, is a mother of six who lives near Tara, just one kilometre from a gas well. After the well began operation, she started experiencing chronic bad headaches. Her children suffer severe nosebleeds, diarrhoea and skin rashes. Ten other families nearby also suffer the same symptoms. No medical practitioner can name the cause. Then for four days the constantly audible well stopped, during which time the symptoms ceased, only to return when the familiar hum started up again. She cannot afford to move, her land unsaleable because of the well.

Lismore Council held a referendum a few weeks ago in which locals could vote on allowing CSG in the Lismore area. The result was a resounding ‘no’ with 88% voting against it.

An anti-CSG campaigner in Lismore encapsulated the urgency of the issue by saying ‘Once CSG is in our area, we won’t get rid of it. It’s a short-term industry, but the effects are forever’.

To learn more about CSG and the potential impacts on the Corowa region, please attend a screening of ‘Gasland’ on Wed 17 October at the Valhalla Winery (Wahgunyah) or come to a public forum at Oddfellows Hall (Corowa) on Thurs 25 October. For details visit the events calendar on www.eco.redsally.com or phone Lizette on 02 60 59 4185.