Coal seam gas – a growing community concern

What is the risk for Mitchell Shire residents of coal seam gas exploration?

Chloe Aldenhoven, Victorian coordinator of the Lock the Gate Alliance, will talk about the growing community opposition to this type of mining at the Energy Futures Forum in Seymour on November 16.

“Coal seam gas is a dirty and unsustainable fossil fuel that contributes to climate change,” said Ms Aldenhoven. Coal seam gas has been touted as an option for increased gas production all around Australia as existing gas reserves are limited, or tied up as lucrative exports.

More than 54% of Australia is covered by coal and gas licences or applications. The controversial process of “fracking” is used to explore for, and extract, the underground gas.

Coal seam gas reserves neatly overlay underground water reserves. During coal seam gas operations a large amount of water must be pumped out of the coal seam. This water is generally salty and can contain toxic and radioactive compounds and heavy metals.

The communities of Seaspray and Harmer’s Haven in Gippsland have already declared themselves “coal and unconventional gas free”. Over 97 per cent in each community stated they did not want coal and gas exploration in their districts.

97% of people surveyed in the Liverpool Plains want their district to be gasfield free. Source: Lock the Gate, photo by Jeremy Buckingham MLC

97% of people surveyed in the Liverpool Plains want their district to be gasfield free. Source: Lock the Gate, photo by Jeremy Buckingham MLC

20 more communities in Gippsland are also undergoing comprehensive surveys on this issue, with others in south-western Victoria soon to follow suit. It was resistance from the community that forced Victorian deputy premier Peter Ryan to declare a moratorium on fracking over a year ago.

The moratorium on fracking is unlikely to be lifted before the State election next year. Rural seats are at risk in the fracking areas of Gippsland – and there is just a one seat majority for the Napthine Government. The State Government also awaits the Report of the Gas Market Taskforce (headed by former Liberal MP Peter Reith), and this will be considered within a “National Framework” for coal seam gas.

“Clean, renewable alternatives to coal seam gas already exist”, said Ms Aldenhoven. “These renewable energy alternatives will not threaten our climate and will create more sustainable jobs than continued use of dirty fossil fuels,” she added.

Lock The Gare logoThe Lock the Gate Alliance is a national coalition of community groups from across Australia who are uniting to protect our common heritage – our land, water and future – from reckless coal and gas expansions.

Ms Aldenhoven will appear at the Energy Futures Forum with other speakers discussing wind, solar and earth renewable energy as viable and necessary alternatives to fossil fuels. The Forum has been organised by BEAM Mitchell Environment Group with the assistance of Yes2Renewables.

Energy Futures Forum: VRI Hall, Anzac Ave, Seymour, Sat 16 Nov, 2-5pm. Entry by gold coin.

Peter Lockyer
BEAM: Mitchell Environment Group Vice-President

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