TIME is clearly running out for those opposed to Coal Seam Gas mining and equally, those worried about its impact on the environment, to get a definitive, scientific answer from government about its safety. Both industry and government sources are making the sorts of noises which indicate that the Victorian Government moratorium will soon be lifted. Nicholas Kotsiras, Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, said last week that the moratorium on coal seam gas mining in Victoria would remain in place until a decision was taken by the Napthine Government about “whether to add to regulations set out in the national framework on coal seam gas”. That’s code for saying they are about the remove the moratorium. The Victorian Government, along with other State and Territory Governments, endorsed the National Harmonised Framework on Natural Gas from Coal Seams last week and Mr Kotsiras said a decision on whether Victoria would add to that framework would be made “in the next few months”. The national framework sets out the minimum requirements State and Territory Governments must adhere to in regulating coal seam gas mining but those opposed to CSG say authorities like the EPA are ill-equipped to deal with CSG regulation. They also claim that we haven’t seen enough independent investigation into the effects of this type of mining. They also note that the national framework doesn’t address variability of environment in different areas and any loss of livelihood as a result of coal seam gas mining. The powerful Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) is already driving the point home hard with government that Gippsland’s “stagnating economy” is missing out on jobs and investment. That it has “fallen behind regional, state and national averages for economic growth, labour participation and unemployment” while failing to grasp the potential of CSG. But APPEA has done little to assuage fears with a proper scientific argument about safe exploration and extraction of CSG and what happens to the environment as a result. The fact is that most of the companies in line to gain the real benefits from CSG mining are overseas based and to be frank, they couldn’t give a stuff what happens to the local environment while they make their profits. We have seen this in the attitude of the Bass Strait oil and gas companies and Latrobe Valley coal miners to the falling level of Gippsland’s groundwater. Sure there’ll be a few local jobs initially and some landowners could be in line to benefit but what will we be left with afterwards? APPEA says there are $60 billion worth of projects underway in Queensland but how many of them are safe? Have any of them resulted in any adverse environmental impacts and what is being done about those problems? Let’s see a pamphlet from APPEA about that, not more spin about what we’ll miss out on if we don’t take the cash!
Yes, but is CSG safe?