Cancer risk makes coal gasification a non-starter
Contamination of groundwater at Kingaroy by the cancer-causing chemicals benzene and toluene from the Cougar Energy Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) plant has highlighted the health risks of a proposed coal-to-fuel project at Felton, 30km southwest of Toowoomba.
Ambre Energy plans to gasify 8 million tonnes/year of coal above ground at Felton in a petrochemical plant after open-cut mining. The proposal puts at risk some of the most fertile and productive farming land in Queensland and in Australia, and has been long opposed by the local community for its threat to the environment and the region's future.
The link between the potentially catastrophic experiments in Kingaroy and the Ambre Energy proposal in Felton is abundantly clear to the Friends of Felton - one of the most vocal and active community groups opposed to the development.
As Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath has pointed out:
If underground coal gasification pollutes groundwater with cancer-causing chemicals, it’s likely that above-ground gasification would pollute the air with the same chemicals.
Four thousand people live within a 10km radius of the proposed Felton project site, including the residents of Pittsworth. The health risks of the proposed Ambre Energy project have just become clearer and more frightening.
The Queensland Government must stop the Ambre project immediately.
Friends of Felton have been opposed to the Ambre Energy project, which includes a massive open cut coal mine and a petrochemical plant, almost since it was proposed. The campaign has the support of farming groups, churches, community organisations and environmentalists across the state.
The campaign to protect the Felton Valley is not just about landholders - it's about the broader community and the preservation of the some of the most productive land in Australia. As Mr McCreath points out emphatically:
The Ambre Energy project would destroy a prime farming district, causing major damage to creeks and rivers in the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin, while draining and polluting underground aquifers.
In addition, it would devastate a large area of highly significant remnant vegetation, negatively impact a vibrant and cohesive rural community, destroy significant indigenous cultural heritage sites, consume enormous quantities of water and emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide.
The pollution incident at Kingaroy confirms our suspicions that the Ambre Energy project would also pose a huge risk to human health’.
Friends of Felton has proposed the establishment of renewable energy infrastructure at Felton as an alternative to coal mining development.