GasField Free Communities

Wattle Range Council Road declared Gasfield and Mining Free

Wattle Range Council Road declared Gasfield and Mining Free

Communities have begun to stand up – and are Locking The Gate in the hundreds! Through a comprehensive and truly democratic survey process, communities are declaring themselves ‘Gasfield Free’.

Local roads throughout the Limestone Coast are now displaying “Gasfield Free” road signs sending a clear message of “Lock the Gate”, “Lock the Road” & ”Protect the Region” from industrial gasfield activities. Communities simply do not want this in their backyard.

Faced with the extraordinary capture of our governments by the mining industry, the region is witnessing a historic alliance of our local councils, mayors, farmers, conservationists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, students and retirees who are saying no and locking their gates. Together, they are saying it’s time to protect existing agricultural industries, our land, water and health from the destructive force of the proposed open cut mining and gasfield projects in the Limestone Coast.

Local communities who are locking their gate, locking their road and protecting their region are the building blocks of a strong community campaign. Knowing what is at stake, the “Lock the Gate” strategy is providing pathways for more people to join in the movement and is now spreading across the country and the world, inspiring communities everywhere.

The District Council of Robe was the first council in the Limestone Coast to call on our State Government to halt unconventional gas mining in our region and since then all seven local councils have banded together to ask the State Government for a moratorium on unconventional gas mining, buffer zones and landholder approval prior to mining. So it is only appropriate that communities in the District Council of Robe will be the first to present their “Gasfield Free” declarations to the Mayor of Robe at a ceremony on Saturday 11th October.

All are welcome to this historic event.

Beach Energy’s containment ponds at risk of overflooding

Beach energy, DMITRE & the Minister for Mining have repeatedly assured the community that the drilling of the two exploration wells near Penola has been to “world’s best practice” and that the existing regulatory process would prevent groundwater contamination.

It now appears that the two containment ponds used to store the waste water and potentially toxic material from the drilling process are at risk of overflowing.   Beach Energy revealed this in their recent application to Wattle Range Council to store this waste water at the Katnook Gas Plant on Argyle Road, Monbulla.

Beach Energy said “Due to time of year, the drill sump contents associated with some of these wells has not yet evaporated and given current and predicted rainfall rates, it was considered a risk to keep the drilling sump waste water in situ. To avoid overtopping, Beach energy acquired EPA Emergency Authorisation 45682 to enable Katnook (Gas Plant on Argyle Road) to receive and temporarily store up to 1ML (1 million litres)  of drilling sump wastewater from the Bungallo-1 and Jolly-1 exploratory drilling well sumps.”

That the ponds would now appear inadequate within months of completion of drilling shows that no proper consideration was given to building these containment ponds. It is a relatively trivial process to model the required size of a containment pond using rainfall and evaporation data, of which at least 70 years is available for Mount Gambier.

Limestone Coast general practitioner Dr Catherine Pye, spokesperson for LCPA, says that the failure of Beach Energy to ensure that the containment ponds were adequate is a gross oversight that puts our soil and groundwater at risk of contamination by potentially highly salty water and potentially toxic chemicals. “Surely this casts huge doubt on the regulatory process itself, and on Beach Energy’s commitment to ensure its operations would not cause soil and ground water contamination” said Dr Pye.

“There are many unanswered questions about this whole process that raise concerns in the regulation process.  I believe there should be a complete halt of any further drilling activities in the Limestone Coast until the apparent failure of process is subject of an independent enquiry. Otherwise the community can have zero confidence that our water and health are safe.”Gas1

Beach Energy plans to use Waste Water for Irrigation of pasture

The holding pond left at Jolly1 Penola in May 2014 containing heavy metals, hydrocarbons and salt.

The holding pond left at Jolly1 Penola in May 2014 containing heavy metals, hydrocarbons and salt.

Limestone Coast Protection Alliance are alarmed that Beach Energy are planning to use the drilling waste water from Bungaloo1 and Jolly1 wells to irrigate pasture.  Analysis of this water shows it is half to two thirds the salinity of salt water, with high levels of sodium, potassium, heavy metals such as barium and copper, plus traces of hydrocarbons and phenol.   Some of these hydrocarbons are polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a group of chemicals which are persistant with some causing cancer and deformities in developing babies.

LCPA are seeking more information from the EPA and the Dept of Water.

We have asked SELGA and the NRM Board if they will discuss at their next meetings in October.

Dubious claims don’t fool LCPA

MINING companies like to tar everyone objecting to proposed unconventional gas developments in the Lower and Mid South East as “greenies and professional activists”, according to chairman of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance Will Legoe.

But the sheep and cattle producer and grapegrower says the membership of his organisation – which held its first meeting in November with 11 members – tells a different story.

“We now have 270 members, with 50 per cent of them farmers,” he said.

“And it’s growing every day, mainly through word-of-mouth, although we did attend the (SE) field days.”

Legoe says when people ring him, all he can do is point them to the relevant websites and documentaries.

“People in the region are mostly very conservative – but not on this issue,” he said.

“And they come from all walks of life – a big cross-section.

“They become more educated about the issues and build their knowledge, and this has added to the groundswell of support (for LCPA).”

Legoe had attended Beach Energy information sessions and others organised independently to discuss the possible impacts of unconventional gas mining.

He became concerned and decided to become active in the debate after assessing the ‘evidence’ presented and possible ramifications of developments.

“I have to shake my head when Beach Energy says we are ignoring the science – there is plenty of science saying the opposite (to the company),” Legoe said.

“The possibility of water contamination is a primary cause of concern, but there would be huge lifestyle and social pressures.”

If the March state election had been 12 to 18 months later, Legoe believes the notice of motions carried by SELGA calling for a moratorium on unconventional gas mining would have had more sway on politicians.

“I certainly hope we can still have some influence (on SE politicians) as our numbers grow,” he said.

* Full report in Stock Journal, July 3, 2014 issue.

Is Mining Worth the Risk?

People in our state are very proud of the international acclaim for South Australian wine, and South Australian food is recognised widely as being of extremely high quality.

Premium brands such as Haigh’s chocolates, Penfolds Grange wine, Maggie Beer’s produce, Kangaroo Island honey from Ligurian bees, and Balfours frog cakes are all nationally recognised icons and are very dear to us. The popular Tasting Australia food festival celebrates our quality food and wine, showcasing it to the rest of the country. In fact our growing tourism industry is significantly based on the excellent quality of local delicacies.

But the ability to grow premium quality produce in South Australia is becoming increasingly at risk. The expansion of urban housing into food growing regions of South Australia is already placing pressure on farmers and producers of South Australian wine, but another risk looms even larger.

The increasingly aggressive push by the mining industry to expand in SA has caused great concern to many people, and communities in areas such as the Limestone Coast and the Yorke Peninsula are fighting back. A topic of particular concern is the use of fracking in South Australia – the injection of water, sand and chemicals into a coal seam at high pressure to force open rock cracks, allowing gas to escape to the surface. Many believe that this places our fresh water systems and soil health at great risk.

Many people are concerned that the mining industry are threatening the viability of our fragile South Australian food and tourism industries, which we are increasingly dependent upon as our manufacturing sector shrinks. At a time when we are seeking a World Heritage status for the Mount Lofty Ranges, it is hard to understand why the mining industry has been given approval for fracking in South Australia.

The Environmental Defender’s Office (itself under threat because of funding cuts) recently warned that approval has been granted to Bight Petroleum’s Environmental Plan for the conduct of a seismic survey off the coast of Kangaroo Island – one of the state’s prime tourist destinations. There are 22 listed threatened species and 27 migratory species that may be potentially present within the project area covered by the mining exploration approval.

The government’s Roadmap for Unconventional Gas Projects in SA shows that no regions of South Australia are safe from the threat of mineral exploration. At a time when our economy is in a dire condition, allowing the mining industry to put at risk our major assets of tourism and food production seems like a desperate measure.

If you share concerns about this risk to South Australia’s agricultural and economic future, take a look at the web sites for protest groups in the Limestone Coast and Yorke Peninsula. You can also read more about fracking in South Australia on Greens MLC Mark Parnell’s website.

A protest rally and march will be held in Adelaide on Saturday August 2 to save our food bowl, water and tourism, you can read all about this free event on Facebook organised by the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance.

Perhaps it is time to make your voice heard before we pollute and lose our pristine land and sea food growing assets in South Australia?

Read the Full Article here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local government, community dispute ‘facts’

MORATORIUM NEEDED: Robe District Council Mayor Peter Risely – pictured with council chief executive officer Roger Sweetman – says the overwhelming community support for a moratorium on unconventional gas mining in the South East is gratifying, the law rests with mining companies.

ROBE is hardly a place for political ferment and if far left and Greens-inspired ‘activism’ are rife in town, no one told the locals.

But this conservative, coastal fishing and tourism enclave has become a catalyst to change the way the debate surrounding unconventional gas exploration will proceed.

With a potential threat to underground water, the farming and fishing industries (on which people depend for their livelihoods), public anger, perceived disinformation and a ‘deaf’ state government have been enough to make the mouse roar and empower South East communities.

Honesty, conviction and the feeling something was just not right had convinced Robe’s Liberal Party branch and Robe District Council to make it known that unconventional gas mining in the region could not be accepted as a competing industry without proper analysis.

This has been followed by a massive groundswell of support from farmers, irrigators, residents, local government, the grape and wine industry and the medical profession (among others), leading to the formation of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council’s USG sub-committee and the emergence of Lock the Gate in the SE.

But the state government appears oblivious to what is happening which, by all accounts, should be pretty obvious.

There appears to be almost negligible support for coal seam, shale or tight gas exploration in the Mid and Lower South East where possibly Australia’s most fragile aquifer system is already under immense pressure.

While the threat to water quality was the trigger for protest against companies such as Beach Energy, which has already sunk two exploratory wells near Penola, land degradation, air pollution and health issues are fast pitting the rural community against the mining companies that have the state government’s blessing.

The Liberal opposition, with little to say for itself on the issue before the March election – belatedly announcing that it would establish a parliamentary committee to examine unconventional gas mining if it won – appears to have been swept up by the tide of community sentiment and is trying to find a safe haven: does it run for cover or stand up and be counted?

In the blue-ribbon state electorates of Mount Gambier and MacKillop, and the federal seat of Barker, any mining company which believes it can stake claims on the promise of great riches while espousing safety claims that fail to satisfy community expectations is likely to be given short shrift.

With seven member councils voting at the South East Local Government Association’s June meeting to carry five resolutions relating to the issue, including one to “support a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction”, the stage has been set for either a reasonable dialogue with state government ministers and the mining companies – holding petroleum exploration licences over vast areas of SA – or an ugly confrontation.

Mayor of Robe Peter Riseley says community concern is growing by the day.

“Council received about 50 letters from farmers and others in the community raising concerns about possible adverse impacts of unconventional gas mining in the region,” he said.

“It was enough to ring alarm bells.”

Significantly, SELGA’s proposed moratorium – which calls on state government to “require tight gas, shale gas and geothermal developers to acquire a water allocation under the SE Water Allocation Plan for their activies” – has no timeframe, saying “the moratorium is not concluded until matters (detailed in the five motions put by Robe, City of Mount Gambier, District Council of Grant and Kingston District Council) are concluded.”

* Full report in Stock Journal, July 3, 2014 issue.

Fracking Study Finds New Gas Wells Leak More

In Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells.

The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.

The research was criticized by the energy industry. Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle said it reflects Ingraffea’s “clear pattern of playing fast and loose with the facts.”

The Marcellus shale formation of plentiful but previously hard-to-extract trapped natural gas stretches over Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.

The study was published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of four scientists analyzed more than 75,000 state inspections of gas wells done in Pennsylvania since 2000.

Overall, older wells — those drilled before 2009 — had a leak rate of about 1 percent. Most were traditional wells, drilling straight down. Unconventional wells — those drilled horizontally and commonly referred to as fracking — didn’t come on the scene until 2006 and quickly took over.

Newer traditional wells drilled after 2009 had a leak rate of about 2 percent; the rate for unconventional wells was about 6 percent, the study found.

The leak rate reached as high as nearly 10 percent horizontally drilled wells for before and after 2009 in the northeastern part of the state, where drilling is hot and heavy.

The researchers don’t know where the leaky methane goes — into the water or the air, where it could be a problem worsening man-made global warming.

The scientists don’t know the size of the leaks or even their causes and industry officials deny that they are actual leaks. The study calls it “casing and cement impairment,” but the study’s lead author says that is when methane is flowing outside the pipe.

“Something is coming out of it that shouldn’t, in a place that it shouldn’t,” said Ingraffea, who has been part of a team of Cornell researchers finding problems with fracking. Also, Ingraffea heads a group of scientists and engineers that has criticized fracking and two of his co-authors are part of the group.

The study didn’t discuss why the leak rate spiked. Ingraffea said it could be because corners are being cut as drilling booms, better inspections or the way the gas is trapped in the rock formation.

Pennsylvania regulatory officials said their records show that gas leaks peaked in 2010 and are on the way down again, reflecting their efforts to stress proper cementing practices. Further in 2011, the state focused more on unconventional wells to make leak protection efforts “more stringent,” wrote Morgan Wagner, a spokesman for the state environmental agency.

Energy industry officials attacked the study and Ingraffea.

Chris Tucker, spokesman for industry-supported group Energy In Depth, said what they measured may not be leaks but state inspectors detecting pressure buildup.

“The trick these researchers are pulling here is conflating pressure with leakage, trying to convince folks that the mere existence of the former is evidence of the latter,” Tucker wrote in an email.

But outside scientists, even pro-drilling ones, praised the study.

Terry Engelder of Pennsylvania State University, a pioneering supporter of the Marcellus fracking boom, said it shows there is plenty of room for improving drilling safety.

“It clearly indicates that there is a problem with the production” of the wells, said University of California Santa Barbara engineering professor and methane expert Ira Leifer, who wasn’t part of the study.

Read the original story here

State Mining Tax ‘holiday’ Alarm

Anne Daw – who serves on the Rountable for Unconventional Gas Projects – described the inclusion of a ‘royalty holiday’ in Thursday’s state budget announcement as appalling.

Under the announcement, companies would be given a FIVE YEAR ‘holiday’ from royalty payments to stimulate developments, but they would still need to be paid following the grace period.

“It’s now not only the community that doesn’t want this activity here, it’s the councils who represent the community as well”, Ms Daw said.

“This should not be happening in the South East.”

Ms Daw said while she applauded SELGA for taking a stand, Thursday’s announcement was proof it was not being heard.

“SELGA has sent a clear message to the government” she said.

“What a log of people don’t realise is the whole of the Lower South East is already mapped out for unconventional gas exploration..”

Click here to read the full article in the Penola Pennant

Overwhelming proof that fracking contaminates water

We’ve seen it before (like in Gasland Part II), scientific evidence proves that drilling and fracking contaminated ground water, but then the industry swoops in with their misinformation campaigns and pressure on regulatory agencies, and suddenly there’s a new set of “facts” to debate.

Our video of the week shows that the Lispky family is still living deep in Gasland, where fracking science denial déjà vu has unfortunately become the way of life.

Watch our Video – Scientists: Tests prove fracking to blame for flaming Parker County wells by News 8’s Brett Shipp

We reported on Steve and Shyla Lipsky’s case in Gasland Part II, and the industry responded with vicious and personal attacks against the facts and the Lipsky family.

In our Video, Brett Shipp reports that the science proves not only do the Lipsky’s have dangerous levels of methane in their water, but also that an isotopic analysis proves the gas in Lipsky’s well is an almost identical match to the gas being drilled for in the area.

The scientists interviewed say these tests prove that fracking is to blame for the contamination of the Lipsky’s water.

But the Texas Railroad Commission is refusing to look at the scientific evidence, rather claiming that it is inconclusive as to where the gas is coming from.

The industry is also desperately trying to deny the facts, claiming the Lipsky case is a fraud.

But as Julie Dermansky reports in this great piece on DeSmog Blog, the industry doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Help us share the science that proves fracking contaminates ground water

P.S. If you haven’t seen the Lipsky’s story yet, get your copy of Gasland Part II.

And if you haven’t seen Gasland Part I yet, click here

South East Councils push for caution and strict controls on gas developments!

The South East Local Government Association (SELGA) moved several motions at its meeting on Friday, urging State and Federal governments to take note of community concerns over issues associated with exploration and production of unconventional gas.

Currently there is exploration activity in the South East for reserves of tight gas and shale gas to determine the potential for commercial extraction.
According to SELGA President, Mayor Richard Vickery, “While Local Government has no powers in relation to approval of unconventional gas projects, it is important we consider the issues involved and reflect any concerns to State and Federal ministers. In particular, SELGA can advocate for scientific investigations and decision making that takes into account the specific needs of the South East.”

At the SELGA meeting in Naracoorte, delegates resolved to seek scientific information from the Federal Government’s “Independent Expert Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Mining Development” on the possible impact of tight gas and shale gas exploration and development on the vital water resources of the Limestone Coast.

SELGA delegates also called on the Federal Government to amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to include “tight gas” and “shale gas” under the definition of mining activities where water resources are deemed to be “of national environmental significance”.
In addition, SELGA voted to have the State Government require shale gas, tight gas and geothermal developers obtain a water allocation before extracting water from underground aquifers, to ensure consistency for all water-using industries in the region.

Further, the delegates called for legislative changes by the State Government to require exclusion zones around towns, tourism regions and private dwellings for gas and geothermal developments, and to require landholder approval before entering land for gas or geothermal exploration and production.

To ensure an ongoing dialogue on the issue, SELGA resolved to establish a State and Local Government taskforce to examine all relevant research, community engagement and legislative matters relating to the impact of mining activity in the South East.
Finally the meeting supported a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction in the region until such time as independent analysis is undertaken, and the requests made to the State and Federal Governments have been addressed.

“The debate on these issues was complex and spirited,” said Mayor Vickery, “but I believe we’ve covered the main issues raised by the community and arrived at some sensible resolutions to guide industry and governments.”

 

Click here to read full SELGA Media Release on Unconventional Gas 140614

 

Watch the Channel 7 news article video