Campaign groups Western Downs Alliance and Six Degrees combined with a number of other activists and organisations to bring us the Rock the Gates Festival at Tara showgrounds from April 29 to May 4. The festival was organised to elicit support for, educate and inform about the Lock the Gates campaign which is aimed stopping the corporate destruction of the land and groundwater caused by the search for and extraction of coal seam gas in and around Tara.
The chief operating officer for Apex Energy NL, Chris Rogers, contacted Stop CSG Illawarra on April 5. He accused the group, which is campaigning against coal seam gas (CSG) projects in the region, of publishing two inaccuracies on its website: that drilling had already commenced and that CSG’s contribution to global warming is equally as bad, if not worse, than coal.
"This is the battle for the end of the fossil fuel industry. This is the end game," Lock the Gate Alliance campaigner Drew Hutton told a forum, titled, Australia's Gas Rush: The race to save our farmland and the Great Artesian Basin, on April 14 in Brisbane. The forum, sponsored by Green Left Weekly, also heard from Ewan Saunders, climate campaigner and Socialist Alliance activist.
“Coal is really dirty. Gas is pretty dirty too. It's a bit cleaner than coal,” said City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone as she explained the plan to move to gas-powered energy production at a packed community meeting at St Peters Town Hall organised by Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas (SRACGS) on April 13. Barone agreed that we need to move to a low carbon economy, but said moving to a zero carbon economy, such as the plan set out by Beyond Zero Emissions, would be “enormous”.
Environmentalist Bob Irwin, father of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, said he will continue to protest against the coal seam gas (CSG) industry despite his arrest at a protest on April 12. Police detained Irwin along with Queensland Greens spokesperson Libby Connors and Queensland Party MP Aiden McLindon at a protest organised by Lock the Gate at Tara, 300 kilometres west of Brisbane. They were charged with disobeying a police direction. They will appear in court in May.
Peruvians went to the polls to elect a new president on April 10. In a first round result reminiscent of the 2006 election, the electorate has sent the previously languishing “left-nationalist” candidate Ollanta Humala (of the Gana Peru alliance) through to the presidential runoff on June 5. As in 2006, Humala will face a candidate representing elite interests: Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of ex-president and architect of Peru’s neoliberal development model, Alberto Fujimori.
Only days before Peru’s general elections on April 10, three protesters were killed and dozens injured by firearm-wielding police near the southern city of Arequipa. The protesters were taking part in a community uprising against the Tia Maria copper mine proposed by Mexican-based, US-funded Southern Copper. The company has one of the worst environmental track records of any mining company active in Peru. Fearing that the mine would irredeemably contaminate local water, the residents of Islay took to the streets, despite realising it would put their lives at risk.
Residents of Queensland’s Western Downs and their supporters have witnessed arrests, police harassment and some exciting victories over the past week in their fight to prevent coal seam gas expansion on the Tara estate, near Chinchilla. During a protest organised by Lock the Gate Alliance on March 29 Friends of the Earth campaigner and Queensland Greens co-founder Drew Hutton was arrested and charged with impeding the construction of a coal seam gas pipeline. Mr Hutton refused bail conditions and faced 30 days prison, but was soon released on unconditional bail.
Coal seam gas exploration is becoming a key political issue in NSW. The Labor and Liberal parties are pushing for a huge expansion in gas mining, including coal seam gas. But farmers, regional communities and city-dwellers are becoming increasingly worried about the health and environmental consequences of the gas rush. The NSW government recently approved energy company AGL’s bid to drill 90 coal seam gas wells and build a pipeline and processing centre near Gloucester, north of Sydney.
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.