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Australia: Whistleblower Fires Coal Seam Gas Debate

Categories: Oceania, Australia, Economics & Business, Environment, Politics

Whistleblower Simone Marsh has added fire to ongoing arguments about the environmental impact of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in Australia. 4 Corners, a current affairs program on ABCTV (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on Monday April 1, 2013 aired Gas Leak! [1] It was no April fool’s joke, with allegations of government fast-tracking of CSG developments without adequate environmental impact studies.

Concerns about the effects of fracking* on water supplies and quality have created common ground for farmers and environmentalists, despite past and recent bad blood. Impact on groundwater, rivers and property are the major concerns, with escaping methane the burning issue.

[*For a detailed explanation please see: CSG: what is it, where does it come from, and why is it so controversial? [2], part of the 2012 collaborative online project by FAQ Research [3].]

Peter Clarke at Illigitimi Non Carborudum [Don't let the bastards grind you down] blogged about a recent example [4] of this hostility, namely:

…Animal Liberation’s announcement that it will operate a camera mounted drone over private properties to monitor the treatment of livestock and gather evidence of animal cruelty.

John H [5] took aim on twitter:

@knarfnamduh [6]: I suspect we'll see a few drones downed by antiquated anti-drone weaponry, the shotgun! http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-31/animal-welfare-group-to-monitor-farms-with-drone/4602644 [7]@abcnews [8]

Rosemary Nankivell [9], a farmer from the Liverpool plains, picked up on the potential for CSG surveillance. Her twitter handle heralds her views:

‏@nocsg [10]: My cattle dog and I support use of drones over CSG fields. Watch govt ban them then #nocsg [11] http://yfrog.com/esm6uzgj [12]

Cattle dog

The CSG industry body CSG ALLIANCE [13] attacked the messenger:

@YesCSG_Alliance [14]: ABC have repeatedly breached abc codes which has resulted in repeated apologies & corrections: http://bit.ly/XAaNlw [15] #4corners [16] #csg [17] #auspol [18]

Lesley Smart [19] shared an aerial shot of one of the Queensland fields:

@starleo [20]: You haven't seen the QLD gasfield at Chinchilla – here's a pic. Imagine living there. #4Corners [21] http://twitpic.com/cg4u1j [22] via @TwitPic

Chinchilla gasfields

The Lock the Gate Alliance has a busy website [23] and they have been very active on their twitter account @LockTheGate [24] since the documentary’s screening. Among their many retweets was this one from Paddy Manning [25], an environmental writer with the Sydney Morning Herald:

‏@gpaddymanning [26]: Simone Marsh’ story is disturbing. Qld Govt did rush to provide a ‘bankable’ outcome for GLNG/QCLNG in 2010 #4corners [16] #whatthefrack [27]

Their flickrstream [28] has several sets of photos of community action across New South Wales and Queensland. This photo [29] is from Fullerton Cove, NSW:

Fullerton Cove Blockade Against CSG [30]

Fullerton Cove Blockade Against CSG
Lock The Gate flickr account (Creative Commons License 2.0)

This twitter conversation between Ben Courtice [31] and Henry Midshipman [32] underlines the complexity of the issues. For the record Santos is one of the CSG companies involved and the GAB is the Great Australian Basin [33], the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world.

@bencourtice [34]: Just finished reading #4corners [16] transcript. Utterly damning of the whole corrupt #CSG [11] industry. Shut it down. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2013/04/01/3725150.htm [1]

‏@HenryMidship [35]: @bencourtice [31] SANTOS have been fracking their gaswells at Moomba in GAB for 30 years without harm #4corners [21] baseless sensationalism #AusPol [18]