Gas fracking fears

A GROUP of concerned local residents will lead a community meeting at Sale Neighbourhood House on Wednesday night in order to seek answers to the potential impacts of Coal Seam Gas, following ExxonMobil Australia signing an agreement to take an initial 10 per cent interest in an onshore exploration licence in the Gippsland Basin.

The licence, currently held 100 per cent by Ignite Energy Resources Limited, will allow ExxonMobil and Ignite Energy Resources to work together to assess the natural gas potential in the deeper coal seams and determine whether it can be commercially produced.

IER will be the operator of the preliminary assessment phase during the next 12 to 18 months, with any commercial operations not expected for another five to ten years.

ExxonMobil has played down the concerns, saying coal in the Gippsland basin was a lower rank than coal found in New South Wales and Queensland and may not require hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Concerned resident Bryan Hunt said a small group of concerned Wellington residents had been formed to garner support for more information on the potential impacts of CSG.

“I suppose the meeting is a toe in the water, you hear a lot (about the effects of CSG operations) from interstate and overseas,” he said.

“There are a number of questions that need to be answered in regards to environment, health, land and land value, the water table and water in general.

“There is already information coming out of New South Wales and Queensland about their experiences and some of that is pretty alarming.”

Mr Hunt said he backed the push from South Gippsland and Bass Coast Shires for the state government to hold a moratorium on the subject.

“There is a need to take a cautious approach,” he said.

“It is an opportunity to see what is going to be done before drilling commences, before it has an effect on the community.

“I have written to the state government, and their response has been along the lines of don’t worry, it’s (drilling) further away.

“The DPI have admitted by its own admissions on radio that it has been reactive, not proactive and admitted it was unaware of the concern and has been playing catch up.

“The (Wellington Shire Council) chief executive on radio didn’t even know the legalities but said let’s wait 18 months.

“You can’t really say that in the same sentence, if he doesn’t know what hope has the local land owner got.

“There needs to be an active involvement from all levels of government.”

Another concerned resident Jo McCubbin said with some letters already circulated to some landholders, there was a need to establish the potential impacts of fracking.

“It looks a bit like divide and conquer,” she said.

“Letters have been sent to individual landholders, they don’t use the word fracking on the letters but there is mention of fracking on the website.

“There is a patchwork of people and if they sign it could be sort of a fait accompli.

“There isn’t a lot of evidence, but some of the chemicals mentioned we know to be detrimental to human health.

“There needs to be a precautionary approach, it could be 20 years down the track before we see the signs of cancer.”

Mr Hunt said the meeting would be an opportunity to start the debate and get some broader objectivity.

“The notion of potentially having a gas mine on your property is a great concern,” he said.

“Wednesday’s meeting will be an opportunity to get information, start the debate and become connected to a network that will continue to inform.”

The meeting will be held tomorrow night at Sale Neighbourhood House, 21 Leslie St, Sale from 6pm.