Pre-conference discussion on CSG policy

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I live in the catchment headwaters of the Condamine River, on the fringes of the Darling Downs, and my partner and I farm a combination of beef cattle and native forest sustainably on marginal farmland.

We run our farm sustainably on a stand-alone solar power system.

I have read Jess' amendments to the CSG policy [relink Coal Seam Gas Policy, Jess Moore, Volume 12 Number 2], and they are an improvement, but I feel strongly that they don't go far enough.

CSG is not just another dirty fossil fuel. It's not just that it leaks methane. It's that it pollutes the Great Artesian Basin irremediably.

No clean Basin, no clean water, no clean catchments, no farming, no food grown in Australia except hydroponically after hugely expensive water purification (which means a slow accumulation of the toxins purified out, which will be stored where?).

Science does not know how the Basin works. Until it does, we can't stuff with the Basin. Where is the funding to study the Basin and other groundwater systems? Instead of just calling for another Royal Commission, call for an immediate moratorium on all CSG and call for the funding for a proper scientific study and a commitment to protect the Basin (and the catchments fed from the Basin) from pollution.

How many wonderful Royal Commission recommendations are there out there that have been shelved rather than implemented? I give you the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. A Royal Commission is a fob-off and a red herring that guarantees nothing except more delay until the necessary scientific study into our groundwater systems can be done. And meanwhile more bores are sunk and more inter-aquifer leaks created.

The mining of CSG will destroy the Australian agricultural industry and we can't pussyfoot around that fact. You can't have a little bit of CSG the same way as you can't be a little bit pregnant.

Bores link separate aquifers of salt water and fresh water. They pump water into coal seams naturally containing benzene, toluene and other carcinogens and flush them up the bore to the surface, passing through both fresh and salt aquifers. Bores are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel corrodes with salt and leaks. Bores are lined with concrete. Concrete corrodes with salt and leaks. Bores found to be leaking toxins into the aquifers they pass through are pumped full of concrete to “seal them off”. Concrete corrodes with salt and leaks.

What the CSG industry is creating is a honeycomb of 40,000 bores all across the Great Artesian Basin, linking aquifers never before linked with 40,000 permeable bores. Water moves so slowly through the aquifers that it could take a very long time before the pollutants are detectable in other aquifers. Before they are found, how much toxins will have escaped? How will they be removed? How will they tell which bore has leaked, so they can pump it full of concrete? Concrete which corrodes with salt and leaks?

How will we get the toxins out once they're in the aquifers?

Jess says: “Calling for a ban on all CSG (including existing projects) is out of step with what is currently known”. The problem is what is currently NOT known: how the Great Artesian Basin works. Until that is known, we need a total moratorium because the Great Artesian Basin is our greatest natural resource in the driest continent in the world and we cannot afford to risk it.

I speak as a neighbour of a farmer who owns property at Roma, who had benzene and toluene appear in water from his existing bores last year after fracking of CSG bores on his property. The mining company built an evaporation dam on his property that they have been filling with polluted water trucked in from all over the state. No lining on the dam to stop the water getting into the soil. Creek nearby. 2011 Queensland floods flooded the dam - into the creek and down into the Murray-Darling system. Dam may be fenced off, but the gates are continually left open so his cattle get in and drink from it and then get turned into beef with carcinogen content for local markets.

Example 2

Forum of Darling Downs farmers of some of the most productive and fertile farmland in the world, pointed out to the CSG company that if the proposed gas pipeline crossing their land ruptured, the explosion would burn their crops but their crops could be re-planted.

But if the proposed pipeline for waste salt water across their land ruptured, their land would be permanently poisoned and ruined for crops. And Australia is not over endowed with fertile cropland. There have already been salt water leaks in cropland near Dalby last year, and the CSG companies involved have no solutions as to how to get the salt out of the soil.

What is a “democratic decision about the future of existing projects”? You might as well say a “democratic decision about the future of Australian agriculture”. Same meaning and pretty unclear.

I move this as an amendment:

Coal Seam Gas policy

The coal seam gas (CSG) industry is rapidly increasing its scope in the Australian energy market. CSG is talked up as by some as a clean energy source, or as a “transition fuel”, while we develop renewable energies. But it is a fossil fuel. Mining and burning it creates huge greenhouse gas emissions.

CSG is also a direct threat to Australia's agricultural industries because it pollutes groundwater and water catchments, possibly irremediably, although nobody knows if they can be fixed because nobody knows how Australia's groundwater systems like the Great Artesian Basin work. Salt byproducts of CSG threaten to permanently poison fertile croplands vital to global food supplies.

For a safe climate, we need to shift to zero net emissions within the next decade. With stationary energy currently responsible for 51 per cent of our total emissions, the single biggest contribution to a safe climate future in Australia will come through making the switch to 100% renewables. This means no fossil fuels, including CSG.

Particular concerns with CSG mining and use — that require an immediate total moratorium on CSG until independent scientific research can be completed — include threats to water systems and supplies and the agriculture industries that depend on clean water; huge amounts of leaking methane; above ground footprint; threats of permanently poisoning productive land with salt water; devastating human health impacts; and increased seismic activity.

Socialist Alliance campaigns for:

  • A royal commission into the full impacts of coal seam gas mining, particularly on groundwater and water catchments.
  • Immediate funding of independent comprehensive scientific study into how groundwater systems like the Great Artesian Basin work, so that risks to them can be properly understood and at all costs prevented.
  • An immediate moratorium on all coal seam gas mining until the outcomes of the royal commission and independent comprehensive scientific study into how the Great Artesian Basin and other groundwater systems work, so that all risks to them can be properly understood and prevented.
  • An immediate ban on the release of CSG waste water into water catchments or its re-injection back into the aquifer.
  • A ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and similar stimulation techniques.
  • No coal seam gas. Investment in energy must be limited to technologies that can move us to a zero emissions economy, not commit us to new fossil fuels.