Coal Seam Gas Policy
Coal Seam Gas: No financial bonanza for Australia, but a toxic legacy...
~ Dr. Marion Carey ~ “The rapid expansion of coal seam gas (CSG) mining in Australia has the potential for unintended consequences which could put at risk other important natural resources such as safe long-term water supplies, clean fertile agricultural land and a countryside in which people are safe and happy to live. Industry and state governments have been assuring us that this rapidly expanding technology is safe for people and the environment and can deliver huge economic returns. But what is their evidence? Disturbing information has been trickling through from the gas fields in the USA, where some observers have called the global gas drilling boom “an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale” In Australia, there has been an unprecedented groundswell of opposition to the expansion of the CSG industry, with opponents right across the political spectrum. A recent federal Senate Inquiry into this issue suggests there are many unanswered questions. It is appropriate to question whether the legal and administrative protections are adequate to ensure public health is not harmed and that environmental damage does not leave a toxic legacy for generations to come.
Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is primarily methane, trapped by water and ground pressure in the pores of underground coal seams. It is extracted from coal deposits that are too deep to mine economically in the traditional fashion. Steel-case wells are drilled into the coal seams to release the gas. Where coal seams are deep and of low permeability, the use of hydraulic fracturing or FRACKING may be used. This involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and other additives at high pressure down the well and into the coal seam, fracturing the coal seam and providing a track for gas to flow back. In releasing the gas, coal seams are depressurised and underground water in the coal seams is released to the surface as a by-product of the extraction process. This can potentially affect interconnected aquifers above or below the coal seam. An aquifer is a seam of permeable rock such as sandstone that holds water. Much of CSG development activity is above the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world, covering about 22% of Australia’s land mass. This Basin is potentially a source of potable water for generations to come. Much of our experience with gas extraction comes from North America, where sources are both shale gas and coal-bed methane. CSG reservoirs tend to be shallower and have a higher concentration of gas than shale reservoirs. While shale reservoirs may all require FRACKING coal seam gas. Large scale coal seam gas development poses poorly assessed, yet potentially serious health risks to the community.
There is the potential for public health to be affected both directly and indirectly by CSG operations through contamination of water, air and soil, as well as long-term impacts on rural communities, current assessment, regulation and monitoring of CSG impacts on the environment, public health and vulnerable communities is insufficient to provide confidence of adequate safeguards. Perhaps half of CSG reservoirs require FRACKING. CSG is a multi-billion dollar industry, with mining exploration and production licences covering large sections of Australia. CSG has been produced in Queensland from the Bowen Basin since 1996, but volumes were initially small. CSG has been widely promoted as a cleaner alternative to coal, with less greenhouse gas emissions and risk of climate change. However recent research has cast doubt on this: gas may be an obstacle rather than a bridge to a cleaner energy future. The nature and doses of chemicals entering water and air and the exposures of people to these chemicals, concerns about long-term effects of some chemicals used in or generated by CSG mining include hormonal system disruption, fertility and reproductive effects and development of cancer. APPEA has listed about 45 compounds used during FRACKING in Australia but as there is no national requirement for public disclosure of all chemicals used, we cannot be sure others are not used.
Hazardous chemicals reported used in Australian FRACKING operations, including ethylene glycol, glutaraldehyde, fumaric acid and 2-butoxyethanol. Ethylene glycol, for example, is used to make anti-freeze. When it breaks down in the body, it forms chemicals that crystallize and collect in the kidneys and can affect kidney function. It can also form acidic chemicals in the body, affecting the nervous system, lungs and heart. The BTEX group of chemicals (Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene and Xylene) are volatile organic compounds and found in petroleum compounds. Long-term exposure to benzene can affect the bone marrow, causing anaemia, and increasing the risk of leukaemia. BTEX chemicals have been used as FRACKING fluids, even though this practice is now banned in Queensland and NSW. However, the FRACKING process itself may release existing BTEX from sediments into surrounding air or water. Only two of the twenty-three most commonly used FRACKING chemicals have been assessed by the national regulator (NICNAS), and neither of these has been specifically assessed for use in FRACKING. Additionally, some compounds such as benzene can present a risk to health even in minute quantities (as indicated by the Australian drinking water guidelines for benzene of 1ppb, the equivalent of a drop of water in a swimming pool).
The chemical additives used in FRACKING, their degradation products, and compounds mobilised from sediments during the process can pose a risk to animal and human health by contaminating water used for drinking, washing, stock watering and food production. These can include toxic, allergenic, mutagenic and carcinogenic substances as well as escaped methane. Waste water coming to the surface may contain volatile organic compounds, high concentrations of ions, heavy metals and radioactive substances. The CSG industry uses enormous quantities of water, with predicted extractions of around 7,500 giga litres from groundwater systems over the next 25 years. The National Water Commission is concerned that “CSG development represents a substantial risk to sustainable water management. The Australian Senate interim report noted concern about the potential impact of the extraction of large volumes of water on the pressure within adjacent aquifers, and the possibility of contamination of water. A recent report by JP Morgan indicated a range of risks to water supplies from CSG operations. Industry continues to assure us that there can be no contamination of aquifers, despite growing evidence to the contrary.
For nearly a decade, the residents of Pavilion, Wyoming USA, complained about drinking water from their wells and a range of health complaints. This area has been drilled extensively for natural gas but the company denied any responsibility, so the US EPA investigated. The draft report released last month indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely to be associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. “Chemicals detected… include methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemical compounds. The presence of these compounds is consistent with migration from areas of gas production.” “Residents of the town have been advised to use alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, and have adequate ventilation when showering.” Accumulation of contaminants in aquifers can have long-term impacts. Studies on the transport and fate of volatile organic compounds have found they can persist in aquifers for more than 50 years and can travel long distances, exceeding 10 km. The Senate interim report noted “there is a risk that residues of chemicals used in FRACKING may contaminate groundwater and aquifers used for human or stock consumption or irrigation…
It is acknowledged that in one case in Australia, FRACKING resulted in damage to the Walloon Coal Measures, causing leakage between that and the Springbok aquifer. CSG waste water may be stored in tanks or pits at the well site, where spillage can occur, injected into underground storage wells, discharged into nearby surface water, or transported to wastewater treatment facilities. Increasingly, large volumes will need to be treated to remove salt and other contaminants, with associated energy costs, and removal methods are not 100% effective. There are already examples of produced CSG water legally discharged into waterways with contaminants of concern to the environment. CSG mining a threat to food production. The Senate interim report noted “Exploration for, or production of, gas has the potential to severely disrupt virtually every aspect of agricultural production on cropping lands and, in extreme circumstances, remove the land from production.”
Sustainable food production in Australia and food security may be threatened by CSG activities in number of ways, including: Impacts on rivers, groundwater systems and aquifers, with impacts on the ecosystems that support food production by reduction in water quantity and quality with increases in a range of contaminants and salinity with Loss of land area to CSG infrastructure and related activities such as waste disposal. Contamination of land and damage to soils through increasing salinity, chemical contamination, changing pH, altered soil structure and potential for contamination of food products through chemical traces in crop irrigation or livestock water. Lowered farming efficiency and quality of life in rural areas, CSG development involves progressive industrialisation of rural areas.
The Senate Inquiry estimated that the industry will be handling some 750,000 tonnes of salt per annum. The Senate report states “It may have a life of only 25 to 30 years in most regions. That period of time is sufficient to do serious damage to agricultural productivity on some of the best farmland in Australia. Farmers do not have the right to veto a CSG operation on their land which may have been nurtured by their family for generations. This can lead to anger, anxiety and powerlessness. Miners can legally force their way onto farmers’ land with a court order if they don’t comply. One CSG company recently served a court order on a blind Hunter Valley farmer who refused access because he was concerned about damage to his water supply, and needed to preserve the physical integrity of his land to be able to farm without normal vision. A Hunter Valley psychiatrist has documented the mental health impacts of CSG extraction he has witnessed. Exploration is when the psychological stresses are first noticed in the community.
Overseas there have been bans or moratoriums on shale gas mining in France and parts of the USA and South Africa, with the European Parliament calling for comprehensive regulation. The US EPA has begun a study to investigate the potential adverse impacts that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health. Our own governments’ reassurances appear less convincing once publicly available data start to emerge. The Queensland government reported that in only the first six months of 2011 there were forty-five CSG compliance related incidents, including twenty-three spills of CSG water during operations, four uncontrolled discharges of CSG water, exceeding of discharge limits, three overflows of storage ponds, and other incidents relating to vegetation clearing and BTEX contamination.
Recently 10,000 litres of saline water leaked at the Narrabri CSG Project, now operated by Santos. The incident was not reported at the time despite an obligation to do so under the conditions of the petroleum exploration licence. And yet people concerned about their water supplies and asking for testing of water before CSG operations begin may be forced to protest publicly and risk being arrested. The NSW Ombudsman has raised serious issues about conflicts of interest in the assessment of CSG developments and under resourcing of compliance and enforcement activities. The same government department is responsible for both promoting investment in the CSG industry and regulating it.
Trade Agreement could prevent regulation of CSG: http://aftinet.org.au/cms/node/616
Proposals in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement for investor rights to sue governments threaten the ability of our governments to regulate in the interests of the public and the environment, including on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) issues. Canada signed an agreement with the United States giving investors the right to sue governments in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now, the US Lone Pine energy company is suing the provincial government of Quebec for $250 million because they imposed a moratorium on shale gas mining pending an environmental study. In a similar way, farmers and members of the community here have influenced the NSW and Victorian state governments to also adopt moratoriums to examine the impact of coal seam gas mining on land use and the environment. If the right for corporations to sue governments is agreed in these negotiations, our governments could be sued in the same way as the Quebec government. This would undermine the ability of our community to insist upon environmental regulations to protect our communities and farmlands.
In March 2012, South Australia signed the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (NPA). Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are also signed parties to the NPA. The Agreement strengthens the regulation of coal seam gas (CSG) and large coal mining by informing decisions with best-available science and advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Developments (IESC). Under the Agreement, South Australia must refer a coal seam gas or coal mining proposal to the IESC for advice if the proposal is likely to have a significant impact on water resources, either in its own right or cumulatively with other actions. The South Australian Protocol for the referral of project applications to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development guides the referral of CSG and large coal mining development applications to the IESC for advice. As with other stakeholder consultation, IESC advice informs decision-making on licences and conditions.
See also Independent Expert Scientific Committee | Water Knowledge Program The list below shows the most recent additions and updates.
https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/environment/2015/12/12/coal-seam-gas-leaks-climate-debacle/14498388002741 The Surat Basin, a 300,000-square-kilometre area mostly in central southern Queensland and extending into northern NSW, is today the centre of Australia’s burgeoning coal seam gas industry. Some 5000 new holes in the ground account for more than 90 per cent of Australia’s unconventional” gas production, exported to the world.
LAOL Coal Seam Gas Policy:
Initially presented and supported as an environmentally friendly alternative to base power production fuel in order to replace coal. The demonization of coal and the manner in which these mineral deposits have been extracted in the most damaging way possible can only serve to further alienate the industry and justify its phasing out. CSG extraction has been entirely unnecessary, serving nefarious objectives including the raping of Australia’s mineral wealth where the sovereign people of Australia do not benefit, but instead the corporate transnationals and potential hostile nations prosper to the detriment of the Australian people.
CSG extraction is unnecessary and unwarranted. It is a last resort of despotism. Too slowly, Australians’ are learning the difference between being an environmentalist and being a Greenie. An environmentalist is a person intimately conscious of nature’s inclinations; they are people such as David James Bellamy OBE, an English author, broadcaster, environmental campaigner and botanist. A Greenie has no real in-depth understanding of nature apart from their Green indoctrination posing as environmentalism. That is why they rely on conditioned responses and why we have had to endure such insane environmentalism and other laws that have resulted in catastrophes, such as fire storms, CSG extraction and crippling energy prices. Greenies are more concerned with their political ideologies than that of what is truly in the best for the environment ... and Australians. They are people who aspire to Sara Hanson Young and not people like David James Bellamy.
The truth is that Australians’ have been deceived in the most disgusting of ways while their national sovereignty is being auctioned away to foreign powers. The goals of so called “green energy” not being met instead could have been well surpassed, simply by the replacement of the superseded boilers with super critical boilers powering all our PowerStation generators. Australian business and economy would have been able to continue unimpeded; tens of thousands of Australians would still have electricity connected to their homes. All the ills and woes created by this mindless environmental green political agenda have been nothing but to the detriment of Australians’ and our living standards. State Departments in charge of water resources such as the Department of Primary Industries have become the most sickening and disgusting of hypocritical bureaucratic sycophants living out an Orwellian wet dream.
The simple analogy of the Kitten chasing and capturing its own tail is the reality of today’s transnational corporations/financiers, political parties; world socialist movement, United Nations and organisations such as “get up and move on”. The people protesting against the very people trying to put a stop to this insanity label them that of which they proclaim to detest. However the truth being that they are the kitten, they appear oblivious to the fact that they are ensuring the continuation of the very thing they think they are actively fighting against and are doing the bidding of the very people they also proclaim to be against.
Excerpt from LAOL Foreign Aid Policy: ~ “Australia is member of numerous international organisations – some highly valuable and others less so. Membership of international organisations places obligations on Australia to contribute membership fees, to participate in the activities of the organisation (capturing the time of officials and ministers), to provide privileges and immunities to officials of the organisation and, sometimes, to introduce particular laws into Australia. DFAT funds many of these organisations, but others are the responsibility of other agencies”.
LAOL will terminate CSG. Provide affordable utilities, raise living standards and increase your financial wellbeing. Those in the public service that persist to promote the status quo will be replaced with those who will honour a sovereign Australia. Those who believe that they have legal immunities in Australia by partaking in the seeding of Australian sovereignty to foreign powers, the making of statute law in conflict with Australian Common and Constitutional Law may reconsider attempting to sue when told exactly where they can go and stick their FRACKING CSG.
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