US farmer gives warning over coal seam gas

Issue 
John Fenton in Wyoming, 2009.

A farmer from Wyoming, who featured in the documentary Gasland, is touring Australia to warn locals about the health and environmental consequences of fracking for coal seam gas (CSG).

John Fenton will speak about his experience of living with polluted ground water, polluted air and other effects of the gas industry.

Fenton’s first meeting will be on February 22 in Sydney and will include 10 meetings in areas most affected by CSG mining, including regional NSW, Brisbane, Wollongong and Melbourne.

Fenton and his wife have 24 gas wells on their farm in Pavillion; the closest is 100 metres from their front door. The district has 200 gas wells scattered across farmland.

In 2008, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigated discoloured groundwater in the area.

Two years later, the EPA found the water was contaminated with dangerous chemicals and methane caused by fracking for gas and warned Pavillion residents not to drink the water and to use a fan when bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion.

The gas company now trucks in drinking water for local farmers. Residents eat from paper plates because they cannot wash dishes without contamination, and they open their windows when they have a shower.

The water flowing out of the bores and taps smells like diesel and can be lit if contained in a jar. Several people in the district have developed neuropathy or other health ailments. Animals have also become sick.

Well pads, access roads, pipelines, truck visits and compressor stations also affect farm operations.

In Gasland, Fenton says: “This is my way of life. My father and grandfather were old-time cowboys, this is my family heritage and this is my wife’s family farm. We’re proud of this, but if your way of life is being besieged and your health is under attack, I don’t know what else I can do.

“Where else can I go though? This is happening everywhere, that’s the biggest thing I want people to know. You’re not alone if this is happening to you because I’m in the same boat you are and what we need to do is we need to get together and we need to stand up, and we need to speak with a unified voice.”

Click here for details of the tour.

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