On March 13, more than 100 people attended the first organising meeting of Stop CSG Illawarra, a residents’ group campaigning for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining (CSG).
Concerned locals decided to establish the group a week earlier at a screening of Gasland, an Oscar-nominated film about coal seam gas mining in the United States.
Fifteen CSG wells were recently approved for development in the northern Illawarra region under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
Mining company APEX Energy has another well application before the NSW Department of Planning.
Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said the wells are in and around the Sydney Water Catchment, and pose a direct threat to the water supply.
“Our concerns include possible physical damage to the environment, groundwater loss, groundwater and surface contamination, toxic chemical use, health impacts, untreatable 'produced water', leaky wells, increased risk of bush fires and gas explosions — many of which pose a high risk to residents, farmers and industry workers,” Moore told Green Left Weekly.
The most well-known — and unpopular — method is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking chemicals are associated with cancer, liver and kidney problems, and damage to the immune and nervous systems.
“But all CSG methods result in untreatable 'produced water', lower the water table and are a fire hazard.
“Indeed, apart from some Darkes Forest land owners, whose approval on leases was required, the community was not consulted or even contacted about local approvals.
“If CSG is safe, why have plans been kept secret?
“The legislation is set up to enable the expansion of CSG at the expense of residents. Legislation designed to protect the community, our drinking water and conservation areas has been overturned over the past six years,” Moore said.
At the March 13 meeting, Stop CSG Illawarra decided to campaign for: a Royal Commission into all impacts of CSG mining; a moratorium on CSG mining until the outcome of the Royal Commission; and a ban on fracking.
The group also voted to affiliate to the Lock the Gate Alliance, a national network of groups campaigning for a halt to CSG.
A wide range of strategies and actions were discussed, and the group agreed to begin with an information campaign including letterboxing and doorknocking houses in the Illawarra.
The group will approach the South Coast Labour Council to discuss placing a Green Ban on any CSG activities and to organise more screenings of Gasland, including in local schools and community centres.
Moore said: “The government has put mining industry profits ahead of the needs of community and the environment that supports us. Opposition from the community is the only thing that will turn this around.”