Victorian Labor calls for a CSG moratorium

Adam Morton of The Age reports that the Victorian Labor Opposition has called for a moratorium on new licenses for CSG exploration in that state, while safety concerns about fracking are investigated by a parliamentary inquiry.

At this stage, Friends of the Earth’s Melbourne branch doesn’t list any active CSG exploration in Victoria. However, there are currently 24 exploration licenses, and another eight applications under consideration. Exploration for additional brown coal (for drying and subsequent export) is actively proceeding in areas like Bacchus Marsh a town not far from Melbourne’s western fringe, in the face of considerable resident protest, and with the active encouragement of the state government. In fact, they’re planning to run a “communication strategy” touting the benefits of coal mining.

The conservative government’s cheerleading for the coal (including CSG) industry is matched with active opposition to wind power – where every resident within 2km of a proposed wind farm has the right of veto over it.

Given the number of already issued exploration permits, and the fact that a state election is still some time away, the practical and political impact of this decision is likely to be small. But it’s interesting nonetheless that the state ALP clearly thinks that coal’s expansion into new, heavily populated areas is starting to antagonize the Victorian public.

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One Response to Victorian Labor calls for a CSG moratorium

  1. wilful says:

    I just got the attached in my inbox:

    From: Cam Walker [mailto:cam.walker@foe.org.au]
    Sent: Friday, 13 April 2012 1:49 PM
    To: Cam Walker
    Subject: Help head off a threat from coal and CSG operations in South Gippsland

    hello everyone

    Leichardt Resources Pty Ltd has lodged an application for a permit to explore for coal and coal seam gas (CSG, also know as coal bed methane, or CBM) for a substantial area of South Gippsland. It covers private land and road and road reserves.

    The community has until April 24 to lodge objections with the Department of Primary Industries.

    A decision will then be made by the state government.

    Please take action – and send this alert to your friends

    Any person may object to a licence being granted according to Section 24, Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.

    A suggested letter is given below – please feel free to modify it, add your name and address, and send by Tuesday April 24 at the latest.

    thanks
    Cam

    Please send your submission to:

    Manager Earth Resources Tenements
    Department of Primary Industries
    GPO Box 4440 Melbourne VIC 3001

    Or email:
    Gippsland Tenement Support Officer
    Department of Primary Industries
    Email: allison.mulcair@dpi.vic.gov.au

    Please also send a copy to the following MPs:

    Hon Michael O’Brien Minister for Energy and Resources
    Level 22, 1 Spring Street Melbourne VIC 3002
    Tel: 9938 5963
    Email: michael.o’brien@parliament.vic.gov.au

    Hon Ted Baillieu Premier
    1 Treasury Place Melbourne VIC 3002
    Tel: 9651 5000
    Email: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au

    Hon Peter Ryan Deputy Premier Minister for Regional and Rural Development
    Level 3, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne VIC 3002
    Tel: 9651 1044 Fax: 5144 7086
    Email: peter.ryan@parliament.vic.gov.au

    Hon Peter Walsh Minister for Agriculture and Food Security
    Level 20, 1 Spring Street Melbourne VIC 3002
    Tel: 9938 5954
    Email: peter.walsh@parliament.vic.gov.au

    Hon Ken Smith, Member for Bass
    26 McBride Ave Wonthaggi VIC 3995
    Tel: 56724755
    Email: ken.smith@parliament.vic.gov.au

    Extra information

    Cape Patterson Community Exchange has set up a CSG Forum – an informal forum of those concerned about the prospect of coal seam gas and other mining activities in the Bass Coast region. It is intended to share information and enable timely notification of ‘breaking news’.
    You can find the link and resources here.
    http://www.capepaterson.asn.au/index.php/csgf-coal-seam-gas-forum

    If you are a local to the Bass Coast, you may want to attend one of the information sessions being planned to help people write objections. Details here: http://www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/Visiting/Event_Calendar/Events/No_Coal___Coal_Seam_Gas_Mining

    FoE Melbourne website: http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/?q=node/1104

    Objection letter

    To:
    Manager,
    Earth Resources Tenements,
    Department of Primary Industries

    Dear Mr Boothroyd,

    I write to register my objection to the following application for an Exploration License (EL) that has been put forward by Leichardt Resources Pty Ltd.
    Application Number: EL 5416.

    I am very concerned by this proposal to explore for coal bed methane (coal seam gas, or CSG), and black or brown coal. Given the very limited details that are available on the DPI website – and lack of information from the proponent – I am assuming that any exploration that then leads to production of CSG will involve the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

    I note that under section 2A of the Act the Minister is obliged to consider the environmental consequences of a decision regarding applications. The principles of sustainable development, which are outlined in the Act (available here: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/mrda1990432/s2a.html ) set out a compelling case for taking a precautionary approach to possible future impacts of mining and drilling operations. I firmly believe there will be major impacts from any CSG or coal operations.

    I object to the application on the following grounds.

    COAL BED METHANE (COAL SEAM GAS)

    The Public Notice pertaining to these applications says that the company intends to look for CBM on Private land and road and road reserves. I understand this to mean that the company will drill exploratory holes to take samples. If the environmental costs of a mining operation will be substantial – as I believe they will be in the case of both CSG and coal mining – then it would be negligent to approve the initial exploration permit. If a permit is granted and the proposal proceeds through to a works approval phase (ie, a mining license is issued), then the following problems can be expected to arise.

    Ground water impacts

    Test wells would be drilled into the coal seam. These initial wells are unlikely to produce much gas until the coal seam has been stimulated by hydraulic fracturing (fracking or fraccing). This is achieved by pumping a fracturing fluid into the coal seam at pressures sufficient to crack open the rock. This enables the gas to flow to the well more easily.

    Gas companies are very reluctant to reveal what they use in the fracking process and yet continually imply they are quite safe. Fracturing fluids are primarily water but contain other chemicals, often including acids, solvents, surfactants, biocides, and hydrocarbons. Sand is often added as a propping agent to hold the fractures open and allow the gas to flow freely to the well bore. Some of this toxic fracturing fluid, known as ‘flowback water’, resurfaces but much may remain underground.

    Concerns about CSG operations:
    · Extracting coal seam gas (CSG) requires the removal of large volumes of generally saline “associated water” from the coal seam.
    · The extraction of associated water can lower water levels in adjoining aquifers.
    · In many areas, we do not fully understand the degree of connectivity between different aquifers, nor the extent to which groundwater sources are connected to surface waters. In some places groundwater provides the base-flow to creeks and rivers; in others, creeks recharge groundwater aquifers.
    · Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) causes micro-seismic events or little earthquakes intended to open up pathways for fluids or gases to flow. If these fractures intercept fissures or faults, the fracking fluids, contaminated water or gas can move into other geologic layers, contaminating the groundwater.

    Salt and other contaminants

    · Coal seam gas (CSG) water (also known as ‘associated’, ‘produced’ or ‘formation’ water) is regarded as a waste by-product. Large volumes must be removed from coal seams to allow gas to flow.
    · CSG water is generally high in sodium and contains many other contaminants. In the case of Queensland, where the industry is far more advanced in its development than Victoria, each megalitre (one million litres) of associated water generally brings up 5 – 8 tonnes of salt previously stored safely underground.
    · CSG water may also contain heavy metals, carcinogens such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, and radioactive chemicals that are naturally present in coal seams. Some of these highly toxic substances bio-accumulate – that is, they are concentrated as they move up the food chain.

    Climate impacts

    The production and burning of CSG for energy may be little or no better in terms of greenhouse pollution than coal.
    · Coal seam gas (CSG) is a fossil fuel – a dirty energy source that adds to greenhouse pollution.
    · The gas industry claims gas-fired power stations produce 70% less CO2 than existing coal-fired power stations. This figure only refers to the emissions released when the gas is burnt. It does not include the emissions involved in producing the gas – the drilling, fracking, compressing, pumping, liquefying and transporting the gas.
    · Liquefying natural gas consumes at least 20% of its energy value and cancels almost 30% of its “clean” character.
    · Monitoring of methane leakage in the oil and gas industry is limited, but conservative estimates suggest that during the life cycle of an average coal seam gas well, 3.6 – 7.9% of total production is emitted to the atmosphere as methane. This is at least 30% and perhaps more than twice as great as the life cycle methane emissions for conventional (natural) gas which range from 1.7 – 6%.

    CSG may be cleaner than coal, but it is not clean, nor green.

    COAL

    Victoria currently relies heavily on coal to meet our energy needs.

    With what we know about climate change, we know that the world must transition rapidly to a low carbon future. This will mean that we must adopt renewable energy sources to meet our energy needs.

    Victoria is blessed with a range of renewable and low emissions energy options, including wind and solar, geothermal and wave energy.

    The time for further investment in coal is long over. New coal operations in South Gippsland will have a massive negative impact on local people, local economies, landscapes and waterways. The local Council (Bass Coast) and Local State MP Ken Smith have acknowledged as much.

    It would add huge greenhouse emissions to the atmosphere. Because coal mining is a single-use option for land where it occurs, this would threaten on-going production in what is a significant farming region.

    Impacts on food production

    I believe we need to see this proposal in the context of what is happening across much of eastern Australia. Many thousands of proposals to explore for or produce CSG/ CBM is already having negative impacts on agricultural producing areas such as the Darling Downs in Queensland. Here in Victoria, there are currently 24 applications by various companies who are interested in CSG and/or coal. These occur across the ‘coal belt’ of southern Victoria, much of which is our prime agricultural country.

    We have been fortunate enough to have good rains over the past year and a half. However, Victoria has recently suffered from more than a decade of drought, which put significant pressure on natural landscapes, ground and surface water, and agricultural producers. If we go into another drought cycle, farmers in the Gippsland area will become even more reliant on bore water.

    I do not believe it is acceptable to be putting prime agricultural country at risk from CSG or coal operations when we know about the significant negative impacts associated with this industry in Queensland.

    I urge the Minister to act to protect key food producing regions by opposing this particular EL and, more broadly, to put a moratorium in place on any new coal and CSG proposals until there has been a thorough assessment of the likely impacts on our food production and long term food security. Such an assessment must also include likely impacts on rural communities, biodiversity and water, and contribution to our state’s greenhouse pollution.

    Impacts on the local economy

    I fully concur with the Bass Coast Shire on this issue, which has made the following statement:

    “The continuing preservation, protection, and promotion of existing agricultural enterprises, environmental values, and tourism opportunities within Bass Coast Shire is essential to the economic and social wellbeing of the shire, and of the South Gippsland region generally.

    Bass Coast Shire Council is totally opposed to new mining of coal, and to gas extraction associated with coal (unconventional gas), within the shire”.

    http://www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/getmedia/1e380a4f-4413-4e18-bd4a-9078c7e88bc0/120321a.pdf (page 130)

    Summary

    For the reasons outlined above, I urge you to reject the proposal for this exploration permit.

    Yours sincerely,

    Campaigns co-ordinator
    Friends of the Earth
    Box 222, Fitzroy, 3065
    Ph: 03 9419 8700 (ext 20)
    M: 0419 338 047
    melbourne.foe.org.au
    foe.org.au

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