Stop CSG Illawarra released the statement below on July 23. The group campaigns for a Royal Commission into all impacts of coal seam gas mining; a moratorium on coal seam gas mining until the outcome of the Royal Commission; and a ban on fracking.
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On July 21, the O’Farrell NSW government announced changes to coal seam gas rules.
For new, but not existing, approvals there will be: a moratorium on fracking until December 31; a ban on the use of evaporation ponds; miners will require a water licence to extract more than 3 million litres of groundwater a year; a ban on the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes) as additives during coal seam gas drilling; and an obligation to put the details of mining approvals and conditions online.
Illawarra Stop CSG spokesperson Jess Moore said: “These changes mark small steps in the right direction, and reflect the strength of the community campaign to date, but are completely inadequate.
“If the government acknowledges the need for a moratorium on new fracking projects — given the risks it poses to water and agriculture — it should declare a moratorium on all fracking, because the same concerns apply.
“The December 31 deadline is completely arbitrary. This industry cannot be adequately regulated until the full impacts of coal seam gas mining are known. For that we need a full moratorium until the outcome of a Royal Commission.
“While the banning of BTEX for drilling is a positive step, the fact remains that BTEX can occur naturally in coal seams and be present in water that must be drawn out of the seam to access the gas.
“There’s rhetoric in the government announcement about community consultation but substance is what we need. The only concrete commitment is to put approved sites and conditions online for people to access.
“Telling communities where they stand after the fact is not consultation.
“We are worried because all CSG mining involves contaminated water, not just fracking. The extraction of gas draws water out of the coal seam that is highly saline and can contain toxic and radioactive compounds, heavy metals and endocrine disruptors.
“An executive member of APEX told us that they are considering draining this water through the geology of the escarpment, into coastal waters, to minimise the use of evaporation ponds and road tankers for disposal.
“All coal seam gas mining is a fire hazard, as wells, processing plants and pipelines leak.
“All coal seam gas mining risks a range of health impacts such as heart, lung, kidney and neurological problems and cancer.
“It is clear the government is moving too slowly and that these measures fall far short given the threats posed by coal seam gas. The fact remains that this industry does not have a social licence to proceed. Local members need to listen to and back the community.”