Moratorium on CSG and fracking in US: Queensland government must follow suit
A critically important precedent has been set in the US state of New York, with an overwhelming majority of Senators calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction until the environmental impacts can be determined.
The onus is now on the Queensland Government to heed this emerging global consensus.
The Bligh Government must impose an identical moratorium on the controversial process of fracking in the extraction of coal seam gas in Queensland. The process used and the risks of this technology in Queensland and the US are identical. As we have consistently maintained, there is no justification for rushing ahead with gas extraction in Queensland before the science is known and the impacts understood.
The New York State Senate voted 48 to 9 Tuesday night to issue a moratorium on a type of natural gas exploration that uses hydraulic fracturing and the injection of millions of gallons of chemically treated water underground, following public protests about drilling occurrring in the catchment of New York's water supply.
The moratorium will be put in place to give time for a comprehensive review of safety and environmental concerns since fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) has been blamed for contaminating water supplies and endangering human health, especially in the Rocky Mountains states. In effect, the moratorium will prevent new drilling permits from being issued until May 15, 2011 at the earliest.
Queensland farmers and environmentalists alike are highly concerned the process, which involves setting off explosions underground to better release the coal seam gas, will increase the inter-connectedness of aquifers and could contaminate fresh groundwater supplies used for farming and town water.
According to Six Degrees spokesperson Drew Hutton, the decision of the New York State Senate sends a powerful message to the Queensland Government about the need for due process:
There is no difference between the fracking process in the US and here in the Surat Basin.
The same companies are doing it, the same chemicals are being used and there is a similar reluctance on the part of the companies to tell communities, or even the regulators, what chemicals are in the fracking fluids.
The Bligh government should protect the public interest in the same way as the New York legislature and conduct the same review of this controversial process.
Basin Sustainability Alliance Chair Ian Hayllor said the New York Senate decision was a "very promising sign" for Queensland:
We've been calling for a moratorium for the last twelve months because of our concerns of the impacts on the Great Artesian Basin.
[The state government] don't appear to be doing a lot of in-depth studies.
The movement calling for a moratorium on CSG is worldwide. The Australia-US connection is gaining traction, with Friends of the Earth currently hosting the visit of US environmental campaigner Tara Meixsell. Ms Meixwell has detailed in her recent book, Collateral Damage, the health problems experienced by people living near the gas wells in the US.
She is traveling around the state in the coming weeks, warning of the irreversible environmental and severe health problems where fracking occurs, and the very real risk that we can expect the same problems here.
In spite of the mounting evidence, the Queensland Labor Government, however, have shown an unwillingness to observe the global consensus of the risks of this industry.
Mines Minister Stephen Robertson re-affirmed the government stance on the coal seam gas industry today, saying:
We want it to grow.