By Karen Bowley and Natasha Stafford, Member of Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH) and Permaculturalist
Victoria and NSW are currently experiencing a rush of exploration for ‘unconventional’ gas and there are parts of both states under coal, coal seam gas (CSG), shale gas, or tight gas exploration licenses. The Greens and other environmentalists insist that unconventional gas extraction through techniques such as ‘fracking’, pose long term risks to our climate, underground and surface water resources and food and agricultural production. Both the CSIRO and the National Water Commission, the Federal Government’s own independent expert adviser on water, have stated that fracking’s impacts on underground water levels, the amount of emissions and the long-term impacts on local environments and farmland are still poorly understood.
In the Border Mail on 7 June, we learn that the Indigo Council will undertake Shire wide community consultations as it prepares a formal policy on coal seam gas exploration. A significant coal seam gas reserve covers the north-west corner of Indigo Shire, extending over to Wangaratta and Corowa in NSW.
Metgasco intends to drill a gas well 2km deep into the tight sands gas deposit near Bentley, 16 km from Lismore in Northern NSW. Tight sands gas is a form of unconventional gas similar to coal seam gas where many wells are required to produce a commercial flow. Fracking is almost always required to get the gas to flow from tight sands deposits.
The Northern Rivers community is overwhelmingly opposed to gasfield industrialisation at Bentley. Surveys conducted revealed 84.5% of Bentley residents are opposed to local gasfields and Lismore voted a 87% “NO” to CSG. A community blockade of up to 10 000 people at the drill site had been in place since early February.
The Metgasco drilling operation licence at Bentley was suspended in mid May by the State Government for failing to comply with the requirements of the licence, ie not consulting with the public. It seems the focus created by the blockade induced the government to investigate gas exploration licences in NSW. Metagasco is now suing the State Government for the suspension. “[The government] would not be faced with this litigation now if it had retained that power to cancel mining and petroleum licences on public interest grounds,” Mr Ricketts the spokesperson for Gasfield Northern Rivers said.
The Lismore community has adopted direct action protesting to protect the biodiversity, water resources, agricultural lands and sustainable industries of the Northern Rivers.
What would you do to protect your environment and your community?