Jess Moore

The Coalition New South Wales government released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy on September 11. The public was told the policy would protect land and water from the impacts of mining and coal seam gas (CSG) development.

Instead it is a policy to develop CSG and mineral mining in the state — despite well-evidenced risks and enormous community opposition — and breaks a slew of promises made to the people of NSW.

Coal seam gas (CSG) advocates are running a fear campaign against a backdrop of soaring electricity prices in New South Wales. They claim that unless CSG development in NSW goes ahead, household gas bills will triple.

This is a frightening idea, given the stress already caused by electricity price hikes.

Over the past four years the average power bill in NSW has gone up by 69% on top of inflation. Users face a further 18% price hike this year.

Coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and mining poses significant risks. Yet licences have been issued and development approved in vital drinking water catchments in NSW.

The promise

Before the last state election, then NSW opposition leader Barry O'Farrell made a promise to reverse this. He said: “The next Liberal/National Government will ensure that mining cannot occur ... in any water catchment area, and will ensure that mining leases and mining exploration permits reflect that common sense; no ifs, no buts, a guarantee.”

Global opposition to unconventional gas mining is growing fast. Impacts on water, food, health and the environment, associated seismic risks and climate change contribution are just some of the many reasons.

Meanwhile, the industry is growing. Its potential growth in Australia is enormous, with large known reserves and billions to be made.

In September last year, the coal seam gas (CSG) industry launched a multimillion dollar advertising campaign called “We want CSG”. It is sponsored by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) — the peak national body for oil and gas exploration — which represents companies such as Shell, Santos, Origin Energy, British Gas, AGL, PetroChina and ConocoPhillips.

In the face of a broad and growing campaign, rhetoric from the NSW government is beginning to match some of the risks when it comes to coal seam gas (CSG) mining. This begs the question: what is being done when it comes to CSG?

In an interview about CSG mining on December 1, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell told 2GB’s Alan Jones: “I don’t intend to allow — particularly after the drought we went through over a decade — mining or any other activity to threaten water resources.

The rapid growth of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry — despite broad public opposition and proven risks — is bringing the gap between policy and public will into stark relief.

Research remains limited, but there is mounting evidence CSG mining poses serious risks. The industry puts huge demand on water supplies, particularly ground water, damages aquifers and produces large quantities of contaminated water that can pollute soil and water sources. It divides the landscape with roads, wells and pipelines, and can cause seismic activity and subsidence.

Stop CSG Illawarra’s Jess Moore gave the speech below at the 3000-strong rally against coal seam gas mining that took place in Clifton, north of Wollongong, on October 16.

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Like so many people who live in the north Illawarra, there is a creek that flows through my backyard. Most of those creeks come from aquifers: the Hawkesbury Sandstone Aquifer System that the coal seam gas companies want to drill through to get the gas.

This campaign is about our future and our right to protect this area — to protect our drinking water, our food and our future.

The development of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry brings risks to Australia’s limited water resources. It draws contaminated water out of the ground, damages aquifers and uses and pollutes large quantities of freshwater.

These risks, and the implications for health, agriculture and the environment, are central reasons for the growing community campaign to stop CSG mining.

Images in the documentary Gasland of people setting their tap water on fire have made many question the impact of unconventional gas on water supplies.

The public wants meaningful action to address climate change. The 2010 annual Lowy poll found that 86% of Australians support climate action. Forty-six percent said they supported strong action and a further 40% supported gradual steps.

Moreover, a 2011 poll by the 100% Renewable Energy Campaign asked 14,000 people their views on renewable energy and the government’s responsibility. It found 91% of respondents think the government should increase action to roll out renewable energy and that 86% think the government needs a plan to get to 100% renewables.

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