Firm suppressed coal seam gas report, says BZE

November 16, 2011
Matthew Wright.

Non-profit climate research group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has slammed global engineering company WorleyParsons, saying the firm has suppressed a damning report into the emissions produced by coal seam gas (CSG) mining.

BZE executive director Matthew Wright told ABC radio's Greg Borschmann on November 14 that the group had commissioned WorleyParsons to produce the report, which was due for release in September. But Wright said WorleyParsons “upper management or the board has actually stopped us from receiving the report and we believe that’s on the basis that the report has some pretty explosive detail”.

Wright said: “We were told 'great news, it’s finished. It’s just going to be sent up to the legal team in Queensland'. [Then] we started to hear less and less of the Worley team, and we were basically told it had become too difficult and general comments around ‘it's too politically sensitive and you know, we work in this field and we can’t be releasing this kind of report for you’.”

Earlier this year, WorleyParsons produced a report for the CSG industry lobby group APPEA, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. APPEA used the report to bolster its claim that CSG is a "clean" energy source.

In June, BZE contracted WorleyParsons to produce a new report, which studied evidence for significant greenhouse gas emissions (due to gas leakage) ignored in the industry-funded report.

Wright had little doubt why the multinational firm had not delivered on its promise. “One would assume it’s related to WorleyParsons having a huge vested interest in the [CSG] industry’s development,” he said.

WorleyParsons has disputed the claims, saying in a November 14 statement that BZE had agreed to suppress its own report – something Wright denied. The company refused to be interviewed by Borschmann or respond to his questions.

By November 17, a new statement emerged – this time minus the claim that BZE agreed to put its report under wraps. WorleyParsons said the report was undergoing peer review and would be published in a scientific journal “within weeks”.

It denied the delayed report would be any different. But BZE says it will continue to pursue WorleyParsons until it releases the original report in full.

In a November 17 opinion piece on ABC's The Drum, Wright drew a parallel between government support for today's CSG industry and past government's support for the asbestos industry.

He said: “We've seen the consequences of vested interests suppressing information before. The dangers of asbestos are now well known, but for a long time the asbestos industry's conflict of interest prevented them from releasing accurate information that would threaten their profits.

“The government's slow response to the issue allowed dire health problems for generations. The Australian public should not be burdened with another.”

Wright called for the government to launch its own scientific investigation into the CSG industry's impacts on farming, water and climate change. He also called for a moratorium on all new CSG projects and said the government should urgently test all existing sites.

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