You get the feeling not much happens on a Saturday morning in Merriwa. The sleepy country town in the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales just hums along quietly. Except for its proud and tidy RSL, where the front bar opens at 10am, horse races flash across the television screens and tickets pump out of the Club Keno machine.

In a stuffy back hall, on neat rows of red vinyl chairs sit the Merriwa Healthy Environment Group; a group of local farmers and landowners who came together in February to unite against the coal seam gas companies as they rode into town.  Seven months later, they feel under attack. 

Their enemy? PEL 456, PEL 468, PEL 4 and PEL 433; coal seam gas exploration licences for Merriwa and its surrounding areas of cattle, sheep and cereal farming land, up for sale to the highest bidder.

Well, at least everything below the top soil. Under the provisions of the Mining Act and the Petroleum (Onshore) Act, an individual does not own any of the gas, minerals, and in some cases the soil underneath the surface of their land.

The Merriwa Healthy Environment Group and their neighbours are landowners but they have no right to deny the mining company’s access to their properties. The government says they must let the mining companies in.

These crucial and astonishing points of law have divided the greater Merriwa community - inspiring anger in some, and apathy in others.  “One man came up to me in the street and said you’re doing a good job mate, but you’re not going to win,” said Graham Brown, one of the group’s leaders.

It’s a fair point - mining is big news in NSW right now.  Not to mention big bucks.

Under current state legislation the mining is considered state significant development; that’s a fancy way of describing a streamlined approval system that waives otherwise essential approval for pollution licenses and protection of native vegetation. One third of NSW is already approved for mining and exploration. Almost half of these licenses cover coal seam gas extraction, each one selling for $100-300 million dollars a pop.

With the industry singing the praises of a cleaner, more efficient alternative to coal, the future couldn’t seem brighter for everyone. Everyone, except of course, the farmers. A collective who would be proud of the punctual, serious and sensibly dressed group from Merriwa who arrived for a workshop on land rights, run by the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office last Saturday.

It’s one of a series of seminars planned throughout the region and run by the legal centres’ Legal Outreach Director, Jemilah Hallinan; and one of the only programs in the state offering much needed support and advice for those confronted by the CSG industry.

“I can’t understand why there aren’t more of us here, “ said Pat, a cattle farmer who’s lived in the area for 25 years and entertained the group with a story of the time he left a mining company representative unassisted and bogged in his back paddock.

Shock and fear might have something to do with it.

Fiona Simson of the NSW Farmers Association says the situation has “overwhelmed” their members. They’re concerned for the future health of their crops and livestock; confused by the pressure and demand around access to their properties, and in many cases despair over their lack of rights. Most are also terrified about water- and for good reason.

As Graham Brown put it: “[In the Upper Hunter] Nothing happens here without it…Merriwa’s town water comes from the same underground source as the irrigatiors. No usable water means no town or farmers producing food.”

Santos is one of three mining companies currently operating in the Merriwa region. Yet according to their NSW spokesman, Sam Crafter, the rural community has very little to worry about.  He says it is in Santos’ best interests to defend the aquifers, because without them they won’t have a business or an industry.

They’re also proud of their minimal footprint. Crafter says the coal seam gas wells only require a space of 80m x 80m to mine. Space enough for cohabitation – a far cry, he said, from the forced annexation of traditional coal mining communities.

Crafter was also happy to cite the success of the Santos commitment to community ($500 million given to local business in regional Queensland); as well as noting the absence of health concerns (“nothing significant has been raised.”); but was reluctant to compare the regions in terms of the long term impact of coal seam gas wells on the land.

Public opinion of coal seam gas tells a far less confident or positive story. Australia does not have sufficient agricultural data to support an industry growing at such a rapid pace. While the recent and ongoing NSW parliamentary inquiry into the CSG industry has received approximately 800 submissions from farmers around the state, declaring their opposition.

One thing is for sure. While the scientific and environmental impacts of coal seam gas continue to go unmeasured, the social costs, even at planning stage, have not gone unnoticed. Starting with health.  Just last week the parliamentary inquiry heard from Dr Wayne Somerville, a clinical psychologist and farmer from Northern NSW who expressed grave concern for the long term effects of CSG on the mental health of the region. But the bad stuff is already happening. Fifty per cent of the 10, 000 current members of the Farmers Association have reported signs of mental stress in the past year; numbers not recorded since the drought.

It’s hard not to think of those people when watching the new batch of pro CSG advertisements on television. As one farmer’s wife said on Saturday: “It’s one thing for people to agree to the extractions on their properties, but quite another for them to be so vocal about their support for the industry. It’s like a slap in the face for the rest of us, who are too worried about it.”

Education is a great starting point.  Not a single person who attended the comprehensive EDO workshop at the Merriwa RSL hall on Saturday afternoon left before it had finished. And the workshop ran for four solid hours.

Armed with brochures, contact details and solid legal advice, they even lingered by the door, talking about neighbours, friends and spouses they wish had come along. It was not hard to understand why.

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57 comments

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    • Nathan says:

      06:35am | 28/09/11

      “Crafter says the coal seam gas wells only require a space of 80m x 80m to mine. Space enough for cohabitation” On an assumption that this is true i have no problem with taking advantage of coal seam gas. There are a few dubious farming practices that do a reasonable amount of damage to the environment that nobody seems to concerned about, cotton in Northern NSW springs to mind

    • acotrel says:

      07:22am | 28/09/11

      ‘In a stuffy back hall, on neat rows of red vinyl chairs sit the Merriwa Healthy Environment Group; a group of local farmers and landowners who came together in February to unite against the coal seam gas companies as they rode into town. ‘

      So they’ll be supporting the ‘carbon tax’ ?  There must be some carbon in coal seam gas ?

    • Kheiron says:

      03:02pm | 28/09/11

      That number is rather flexible. It tends to be dictated by the size of the drilling rig they intend to put on the site. I worked in the QLD CSG industry for about 6 years in the pre delivery stage, which included land access, lease construction and drilling and the lease sizes could run from 40m to 100m squared. Then, however, you also have to factor in access as the companies are required to connect the wells via roads which will easily eclipse the leases in metres covered.
      You should also be skeptical on claims from the other side, particularly farmers. Learning of thier limited legal standing and seeing it all as a threat to thier business tends to get them seeing the dark side of everything and even then just being a farmer doesn’t make you any more environmentally educated. I once had an argument with farmers wanting to ditch the concept of conservation for something profit centric, at least for a couple seasons because they were doing it tough at the time.
      Personally though, I think the hardest hit people are the families in rented housing. Time was you could get a house at $120 a week here, same house now is $320. Same places are actually being rented out at $400 a room.
      ...and I earn just enough that I dont qualify for low income housing support.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:51am | 28/09/11

      I think that the most valid concern - quite rightly so - is the confusion about not owning what is “under” the land.

      While it’s a long-term legal concept in Australia, what a lot of people are now discovering is that owning property isn’t *really* owning property.  It can be taken away pretty much whenever they want.

      In a nation where we’re encouraged to love our land, this law does a lot more than simple financial damage.  A lot more information and support needs to be providing to those affected.

    • Kipling says:

      06:54am | 28/09/11

      To my mind this comes down to a fairly simple idea. It is a given that there are some farmer’s whose practices contribute to environmental damage then environmental impact is a hard area to argue, all damage after all is not good. So then it comes down to overall benefit, since it seems we must accept some degree of environmental impact.
      Consequently, I think we need to look at the overall benefits. Farmer’s produce food for local market and export, presumably, except for those supplying the big multi national supermarket chains of course, the profits generally remain in Australia. In the long term this is good for Australian’s. Mining on the other hand is predominantly owned by off shore financial interests. Long term, money leaves the country, substantial amounts of money and, once the resource boom busts, we are left with land possibly unable to be farmed, that has big holes in it and an employment crisis when the mining companies move on to dig holes in someone elses back yard…
      So, whose interests are the NSW State Government actually looking out for by paving the way for mining companies to do as they wish?  Clearly, not the local residents who they apparently represent…

    • Nathan says:

      07:29am | 28/09/11

      I agree that the question comes down to what is the best use of our resources but i don’t believe that farming necessarily offers the best use of land. Mining companies inject large sums of money into our National and local economies. We have been reading about Coles and Woolworths greed so its not like they are putting much back into the local areas or giving back to farmers

      The NSW government is not only for the local residents but for the state as a whole.

    • Joan says:

      08:49am | 28/09/11

      Nathan- only an overfed, overindulged person who never had to do without food would think mining quality agricultural/farming land is best use of the land. I know that feeding the family comes first and turning on gas second in the meaning of what it is to live and sustenance. Australia full of idiots chasing CO2 - and quite happy to trash today`s future Australian food bowl.

    • acotrel says:

      08:54am | 28/09/11

      @Kipling
      ‘So then it comes down to overall benefit, since it seems we must accept some degree of environmental impact.’

      Cost/benefit analyses should not be the only basis on which decisions are made, good values and risk also play a part .

    • RyaN says:

      02:44pm | 28/09/11

      @Nathan: “Mining companies inject large sums of money into our National and local economies.” Where? these companies are mostly owned by overseas consortiums who take the money straight out of the country.

    • cleaver says:

      08:53am | 28/09/11

      The last thing we should do is trust a company at its word.
      The only way the environment and the CSG industry can coexist is with proper legislation that ensures the industry is firmly overseen by an independent regulator. The industry estimates that the value of gas is in the order of $60-$90 billion. So those companies that are prepared to do the right thing are willing to raise the bar in order to access that pool of profit. To its credit, I actually believe a company like Santos is prepared to do what it takes.
      The only issue with Coal Seam Gas mining is frankly, hugely concerning and worth our thoughtful consideration.
      In order to release the gas that is trapped in the rock-like coal bed we must first drill and then attempt to fracture the coal bed.
      If you were to put a small rock on the ground in front of you and tap it with a hammer, can you guarantee how many times that rock will fracture and in which directions it will split? I can’t and neither can the industry. When you are talking about highly poisonous methane gas and the potential for seepage into underground water this is a huge concern.
      The second element to the fracturing method is the use of high pressure water, combined with sand and a mixture of chemicals to try to speed up the break down and fracturing of the coal bed. As I understand it, only some drill sites in NSW require the addition of aggressive chemicals.
      If you were to place a hose on your lawn and let it run for 30minutes, can you guarantee where this water will go - and if you somehow you can guarantee that, can you extract all of the water that you put into the ground? Can you extract all of the chemicals?
      Combine this with the unpredictability of the splitting of the coal bed and we have an industry that seriously needs to raise its standards before I am happy for it to generate jobs and profits. As I said, I think there are a small number of companies who will do that, so long as we ensure that Government legislation is strict enough.
      There is a potential for a win-win situation here if we stick at it.

    • Geo says:

      12:28pm | 28/09/11

      Hi cleaver. Its all about balance of pressure. If you smash a rock at the surface it goes everywhere because there is no confining pressure. Underground there is vertical lithostatic load (weight of rock on top) and horizontal tectonic load (tectonic stress). The differential between injection pressure and these others is what controls the direction of fracturing. There is more involved than simply turning on the pump and crossing your fingers.

    • cleaver says:

      03:44pm | 28/09/11

      Hi Geo. Thanks for explaining that, I was unaware before now about the more controlled circumstances underground. I guess the question remains, though - can we fracture with absolute certainty?

    • Steve says:

      02:26pm | 29/09/11

      Don’t let the so called “community groups” fool you.  The misinformation being bandied about is astounding.  Get the facts.  Not the extreme opinions.  A few points….

      The difference between Qld and the Hunter Region is that the Coal Seam in the Hunter is much closer to the surface so smaller rigs are needed. Therefore less intrusion into farmland.

      Current coal mining methods release all those chemicals into ground water as well as releasing millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere and surrounding areas.  CSG is actually trying to capture that.  They are after the GAS not the COAL, so it is less intrusive.

      Most of the “chemicals” injected to fracture the coal seam is simple baking soda to cause rapid expansion.  I like that better than dynamite to break up rock.

      All the disaters you hear of from the US are Shale Oil - not Coal Seam Gas.  The methods are about as similar as Iron Ore extraction and Gold Extraction.  Read up on it!

    • Brian says:

      07:30pm | 02/10/11

      Methane is not highly poisonous. There is no exposure limit, and other than the risk of catching fire it is considered no more dangerous than nitrogen - the only way it can harm you through inhalation is by displacing oxygen, and with the exception of a cylinder being opened in an enclosed space, that’s practically impossible. (according to the official Material and Safety Data Sheets from BOC)

    • Geoff says:

      08:56am | 28/09/11

      I thought you owned your land, what is below it and what is above it. Clearly im wrong

    • acotrel says:

      10:25am | 28/09/11

      @Geoff
      You know what thought did?  You should read up on your history, and the relevence of the ‘miners’ right’ to the rebellion at Sovereign Hill.  Did you really believe the householders at Bendigo have rights over the gold mines which extend under the town?

    • Geoff says:

      05:41pm | 28/09/11

      @ acotrel
      So if I buy land and want to dig in a cellar (or an underground shopping centre carpark) how far can I go? And if I find gold, who owns it? What if I dig in a water well? Is that mine?

    • Lee Enfield says:

      06:14pm | 28/09/11

      6 inches, I think is all your own.

    • Don says:

      09:02am | 28/09/11

      It is such a rubbish idea using this ‘greening’ gas to replace coal . One Dr Somebody of the Greens claimed that in the long run , CSG is as ‘dirty’ or almost as coal , 98 % . Others say 78 % .

      The chemicals used in fracking have poisoned the water , stopping cattle being sold , or so claimed the news , and they are never wrong , are they ?

      One letter on a blog site said that to see these landscapes that CSG is operating on , would ‘break your heart’ .

      There are jobs that pay big money in gas construction , and the whole idea is so far advanced . Mr Palmer said the wrong technology is being used , whatever that may be .

      This greening craziness , get rid of poisons in the rivers , air etc , yes yes yes , by all means .

      This CSG needs to be done correctly , not by chasing the dollar so much .

    • TugboatBen says:

      10:34am | 28/09/11

      @Don,

      Could you point me to a study / paper re CSG being 78% / 98% as dirty as coal. i haven’t heard that one & I’d be interested to read more.

    • Geo says:

      12:36pm | 28/09/11

      Look at the difference in producing power from coal and gas. Compared to black coal, gas-fired power produces 99% less particulates (see respiratory illness), 68% less nitrogen oxides, 99% less sulphue dioxide (both these combine to create acid rain - see the rusty fences at Merriwa), and 99% less carbon monoxide. Perhaps the farmers of Merriwa would benefit from cleaner air.

    • GB says:

      09:12am | 28/09/11

      I have to ask this question. What if the coal seam gas was located underneath traditional aborginal land? Would the NSW state Government be so quick to declare it “state significant development”?. I wouldn’t think so. The uproar would be heard from one end of the country to the other. Also, what if any, compensation are the farmers receiving?

    • Lucy Kippist

      Lucy Kippist says:

      10:38am | 28/09/11

      Actually GB under the current legislation (SSD) even Aboriginal land is fair game. Farmers do recieve compensation for “compensable loss” or “injuriously affected” areas. At the current time this does not include water.

    • RyaN says:

      11:21am | 28/09/11

      @Lucy: What about nature reserves, are these also in?

    • Jason says:

      11:26am | 28/09/11

      What you say Lucy is very true, and GB it is because of uproar factor that mining companies when they can will stay clear of that land until absolutely necessary.

      I will give you an example of one that I know of at the moment, a larger oil company has the exploration permits for a significant portion of the Kimberley region and has discovered preliminary on shore oil reserves (by preliminary I mean that they are yet to dig to confirm but geophysical exploration has given them basis to believe that their is substantial reserves, and by substantial im talking alot of oil,many years worth)

      Why are they not jumping in the air for joy? Because at the present time, with the ongoing saga between Woodside and Broome traditional owners, and the recent environmental listing of a substantial part of the region it is simply more hassle than it is worth, if it ever would get approval to dig.

      So what is the solution? The company sits on its little discovery for the next 10 to 20 years and as oil supply becomes critical they watch the exemptions flow in that allow them to by bypass all of the trouble that Woodside is having now. Put simply if the land owners do not give access then the government will take it for the benefit of the country.

      This is what happened with CSG, they know it has been there for many years, it just has not been viable to extract. 20 years ago, agriculture was more important, today energy is more important and will win out every time.

      Is it fair? That is questionable, but I believe that the farmers will get a much better deal now with negotiable compensation between the parties involved than in x years time when the government forces them to take market rates. The same apply’s to aboriginal land, they are better off taking the deals on offer now, that are very generous, than waiting for intervention and getting a market rate.

    • Lucy Kippist

      Lucy Kippist says:

      11:44am | 28/09/11

      @Ryan Protection of flora and fauna are considered within the “conditions” of approval; so they do have to take it into account. The EDO advises putting together a case study (photos etc) of your local knowledge and concerns to present to the company.

    • mick says:

      09:26am | 28/09/11

      The sad reality of life is that business has all rights and mums and dads are expected to shut up and go away.

      It is the ultimate insult that business of any type is allowed to invade the sanctity of family life but I am seeing it happen.  That the coal seem gas industry believes that it has the right to sink wells in the middle of the Sydney CBD staggers belief.  But then I have seen residential homes turned into Function Centres where bucks, hens, parties, gaming were permitted activities and the real estate industry rules supreme.  No government intervention as business is all mighty.

      It appears to me that a dumb Australian public needs to more carefully choose its elected representatives as many of the current lot are working against the interests of those most vunerable….the families which are the fabric of society.

    • amy says:

      04:30pm | 28/09/11

      hold on a sec, whats wrong with a bucks night or a hens party..and what do you mean by gaming? the electronic or the gambling kind?

    • Allan says:

      09:31am | 28/09/11

      I fear that once again the Green groups are coming into a situation to inflame it with exagerated claims so as to progress their own agenda.

      If the farmers and the CSG proponents were allowed to work through their concerns an amicable course of action would be agreed to.

      But the Green groups come in and heat up the situation so badly that no one trusts each other.

      I have seen Green groups effectively stop hazzard reductions as a land management tool for a decade that has now lead to some of the biggest wildfires recorded, I have seen Greens force industrial windfarms on rural communities that now have split in acrimony.
      For some reason the Greens believe that they know best about all things and I have learn’t not to trust know alls.

    • Graham Brown. says:

      11:26am | 29/09/11

      Graham Brown
      I suggest there are very few Green groups or indeed Greens members working for cessation of CSG extraction in any state or territory. In effect it is 99percent conservative people who have said enough is enough. And this is were the Government at all levels has got it wrong.They disregard the mouse that roars at their peril.

    • Kate says:

      10:21am | 28/09/11

      Great work Lucy. This is an issue that impacts everyone - not just the farmers. Sometimes money is not a justification for an activity that has such a deep. It is very alarming to hear about the mental health impact on farming people but also the degradation of farming land and water supplies. You are right when you say that this is all happening very fast - too fast to really understand the long term impacts.

    • Kheiron says:

      03:31pm | 28/09/11

      I have a sister who can, and does, suffer mental stress and anguish if she can’t check her Facebook page.
      Besides, who doesn’t show signs of mental stress sometimes, or run into situations that require a bit of the ‘slow breaths and count to 10’ routine.
      In a lot of cases the people themselves are the prominent cause of their stress through compounding the problem and not knowing how to relax a little.

    • RyaN says:

      10:55am | 28/09/11

      They put one of these CSG things in on Sam Johnson Way next to Lane Cove West business park. It was very dodgy, they put it to the locals as a “Primary Regulating Station” but it is clearly a Coal Seam Gas well, the large drills and the massive amounts of drilling during the instillation was the dead giveaway.

      Dodgier still, the work site was not labelled until last Monday when “CSG Worksite” appeared on the side of one of the mobile units.

      The absolute best part about this is that Lane Cove West business park has one way in and one way out, Sam Johnson Way so if there is a bushfire, not only do you have to contend with the traffic and the bushfire, but now you have to make it past what could only be described as a massive bomb.

    • Geo says:

      12:19pm | 28/09/11

      The closest coal seam gas wells to Sydney are in Camden. There is no petroleum production licence in Lane Cove, so unlikely its a CSG well.

    • RyaN says:

      02:23pm | 28/09/11

      It says CSG work site on the outside and (C…. Seam Gas) I don’t remember what the first word was but I do know the S and G part.

      I also saw the massive drills and the works that had been going on for about a year.

    • cleaver says:

      02:42pm | 28/09/11

      Hi Geo,

      Isn’t there some sort of gas mining (CSG?) going on at St. Peter’s? I’ve been to the site..

    • Jason says:

      11:48am | 28/09/11

      I propose this thought to everyone who believes we are better off by hoarding our resources into the future, specifically ENERGY related (ie Oil, Uranium, CSG, Natural Gas, Coal etc)

      What happens when resources get so scarce in other countries that it then becomes acceptable to invade us for those same resources that we refused to dig out the ground and sell?

      Lets assume that peak oil does happen, do you actually believe that the super power’s at the time (Ill give you a hint it will not be the USA or any western country ally of ours) will really care about the morals of invasion for resources over the survival and living standard of their people?

      How many invasions throughout history have been based on resources of some form? Countries do not invade other countries for the hell of it, there is always an underlying factor and large amounts of scarce but valuable resources that everyone else is also reliant on for survival ( I say reliant on for survival because put simply without fuel and energy most of us would cease to exist)  is a very compelling argument to justify such an invasion.
      We are after all talking about a country that moves (forces) entire cities of people so that it can develop dams and other infrastructure projects.

      Just a thought.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:12pm | 28/09/11

      That’s why we have this little thing called the ANZUS alliance.

      China making a conventional invasion of Australia is looney-tunes thinking.  To get here they have to either go through Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and PNG by land and island-hopping first—or they sail an entire invasion fleet thousands of miles across the Pacific to get here.  The last time a non-USA-or-other-friendly-Western-nation tried, they couldn’t get past Papua New Guinea.  And it broke their entire economy in the attempt.  It’s rather similar to invading Russia during winter - no sane army does it and no army, sane or insane, has yet succeeded.

      Not to mention that the fuel and energy expenditure for such a venture is extraordinarily massive.  Even towards the end of the Cold War, the two most advanced militaries in Europe—NATO and the Warsaw Pact—could only have waged conventional war for a period of roughly 6-8 weeks or so before having to stop because they would run out of fuel and munitions.  Those equations have not changed today.

      And WW2 was waged before the age of KH-11 satellites that can read bumper stickers from orbit, nukes launchable from submarines, or a change in the nature of tactical combat such that it only takes one land or air-launched missile to sink or put a battleship/aircraft carrier/troop carrier/cruiser out of commission.

      The US has a duty under the ANZUS treaty and more importantly a common sense obligation to defend Australia from invasion.  There are few other friendly deep ports in the South Pacific where the US navy can refuel or resupply, and Pine Gap is part of their electronic intelligence network.  They’re all assets which need protecting.  And lastly an invasion of Australia is a potential trigger for a strategic nuclear exchange between America and China, which nobody will do because of MAD.

      You’re more likely to see conventional war over the oil reserves in the South China Sea than you will Australia being invaded by China for its energy reserves.

    • Kheiron says:

      03:20pm | 28/09/11

      Jason wasn’t saying the invasion will occur tomorrow. If it ever happened (and lets face it, we humans are always going to revert to war for some reason or another) it’ll likely be at a future date where you’d be unable to determine the economic, military and politcal landscape of Australia and it’s defenders.
      There was a time when Rome ruled most of the known world and then Britain owned most of the actual world. Times change and I’m not about to claim the current situation voids any possibility of Australia being annexed by China in the future.

    • St. Michael says:

      04:15pm | 28/09/11

      You still can’t get around the logistical issues.  Britain’s no longer a superpower, but neither has it ever been invaded or occupied by an enemy force.  Russia is no longer a superpower, but nobody still dares to invade it because it still has all its tac nukes available.  There are incremental power and political shifts, and then there is defying gravity.  One lends itself to possibilities, the other does not.  The sea has been and always will be a potent barrier against invasion, as it has always been for the US and Britain.

      Unless of course China develops teleportation of matter, in which case our technology levels are probably going to have obviated the issue of energy.

    • Kheiron says:

      09:58am | 30/09/11

      Romans and Normans and to an extent Vikings can make the claim of British conquest and occupation. French, British and Spanish can do the same for America. All this in, or before, the Age of Sail when the sea was a much more daunting barrier then it is today.

      Britain hasn’t been invaded ‘recently’ because it’s simply not worth it, same with Russia.

      Imagine, if you can, the possibility of a world where the USA is no longer militarily significant and China occupies the peak of armed power that the US does currently. Then imagine China has a reason to invade Australia that equates to whatever reason the US had to invade Iraq.
      Do you truly believe that this, given the examples of history, is physically impossible?

    • Lucy says:

      12:32pm | 28/09/11

      Why use this method when one day of sunshine will give enough Solar Energy to power Australia for a year? There are so many detrimental effects of this mining including distruction to the land and health effects.
      Surely being able to light a tap on fire because of the gases coming from it is a clear indication?
      There’s already been evidence of health effects in the QLD communities. Wake up you money hungry pigs.

    • Aitch B says:

      01:03pm | 28/09/11

      @Lucy

      Please provide some evidence that “one day of sunshine will give enough solar energy to power Australia for a year”.

      Some information on the infrastructure required and ultimate cost might assist us in going half way to believing your somewhat remarkable claim.

      You’re a scientist and economist, right?

      Or are you just one of those utopian Green pixies?

    • Jason says:

      01:16pm | 28/09/11

      Solar Energy is inefficient and the size of the solar installations required to convert the energy to power the entire country would do far more damage to the environment than CSG or even traditional coal fired power plants at the moment. We would be talking thousands of square km’s worth of mirror arrays. Where do you propose we put all of these? (Keep in mind that transfer of power over long distances is very very inefficient so they would have to go within a few hundred kilometres of the cities that they power)

      Solar also has one major flaw, what happens when we have large volcanic activity in Indonesia or large bush fires which will significantly lower the output of these installations? I bet the population would be up in arms about our innovative technology that is about as reliable as the power supplied in third world countries.

      We need (key word is need) either Nuclear power options or to stick with CSG and traditional fossil fuel based energy sources.. There is no viable alternative and there is unlikely to be one in the near future unless we discover a new element or source of energy. If we allowed nuclear power it would put more emphasis on the development of fission technology which would be the holy grail of our energy problems.

    • PTom says:

      03:08pm | 28/09/11

      Jason,
      Typical only big infrastructure needs to be built.
      “Keep in mind that transfer of power over long distances is very very inefficient so they would have to go within a few hundred kilometres of the cities that they power”
      That is not true at all installation could be small as a shed in the back yard or large enough to cover a shopping mall or school building.

      As for solar inefficient
      http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/true-productivity-solar-pv
      Note: that even more recently parity was achieved.

    • HappyCynic says:

      03:41pm | 28/09/11

      Either Lucy’s talking about space based solar power or she’s more than likely insane.  A solar panel 1km wide running around the Earth at a geostationary orbit would produce more energy in a day than there is energy left in the world’s estimated oil reserves (about 212 years worth).

      The problems are there is no way to transmit the energy from space to Earth and it’s too expensive to build and maintain the infrastructure (source: US Department of Defense).

      Having said that, I’ve heard some horrible stories from the US about the damage fracking does to groundwater supplies, so I have serious reservations about CSG and think these companies should be doing more to reassure the public that it’s safe and that there is no risk to the community, so far none of them have bothered to do so adequately.

    • Terra Nova says:

      12:50pm | 28/09/11

      Mining should always take precendence over farming.
      Mining makes more export dollars than farming.

    • Fiona says:

      10:09pm | 28/09/11

      Yes we can eat mining can’t we.

    • Larry says:

      10:57pm | 28/09/11

      There seems to be 2 main points here -our insane greed for energy[wat will our kids use ?]and our insane greed for wealth-What happened to the easy going Australian attitude?

    • Dodge says:

      02:31pm | 28/09/11

      Do the skeptics ever get tired of announcing the current state of play with green energy?

      No kiddingsherlock, of course it’s inefficient at the moment - Much like freaking Nucelar power was during the height of world war 2. The advances made in Nuclear energy were intense and dramatic and we can of course expect the same from another 50 years of green energy output and consumption.

      This line of reasoning is tried on in the states too, and it’s just as retarded… You have rich energy producers there telling everyone that they can’t ‘make us much money with green energy than traditional sources’.... Again, no kidding idiot, the point is developing the technology and making it better and better over time. The same reason we are introducing an ETS in Australia.

    • Kheiron says:

      03:55pm | 28/09/11

      Assuming an equal advancement between two technologies given equal investment is retarded. The laws of reality tend to intervene.
      For an example, propellor versus jet engines for aircraft. By thier inherent and defining nature, prop driven aircraft hit a barrier just below the speed of sound. That technology, then, effective reached it’s peak at about Mach 0.7. Meanwhile, we’re pushing jets past Mach 5 with ease.
      Interestingly, Australia developed a prop fighter near the end of the war that outperformed the first generation jets. It was never put into production though, and the possibilities of jet aircraft were obvious to everyone that mattered.
      In any case, you certainly can’t assume solar power can, at any point in the future, compare with nuclear energy, regardless of your enthusiasm for it.

    • RyaN says:

      02:39pm | 28/09/11

      I would be more subtle as a farmer, declare the road they come in on as a toll road with a toll of 1 million dollars each way. Its my road on my land so if you want to use the road its 1 million dollars each way.

    • adam says:

      03:25pm | 28/09/11

      RyaN, whilst it’s a good idea, and legally if a landowner pays for the upkeep of that road they can charge usage or conduct a lockout, that would only work until the RTA or Local Govt/State Govt manditorily acquired it. You’d get paid “fair” market rates for the parcel of land the road sits on but your property would be cut in two and they’d probably then charge the farmer to use it

    • michael j says:

      07:26pm | 28/09/11

      my mates a concreter who builds supports for the pipelines on the fracking fields of S/W QLD and i asked him about the Salt ponds they are going to have to use after seeing one of programs a few months ago,,and he said ’ yeah they’re pretty big ,,1km sq and there’s heaps of them,and they are going to sell it, Best of luck with that idea i thought,but i suppose they have a ready market for salt,,and no doubt some sort of wonderful new toxic rubber linning to put in the bottom of these drying ponds/dams to stop the salt from leeching back into the fresh water-table?  Still in Olde Testament times when the winning side finished the slaughter they salted the land so any survivors came back nothing would grow but no doubt they’ll be covered for industrial accidents,,,,

    • other geo says:

      08:18pm | 28/09/11

      With the exception of some very old land titles in Qld, no one has ever owned the mineral rights under the land they own. This is not new to CSG , it may be “crucial” but it is not “astonishing”. Mineral & Petroleum rights are effectively a separate title.  It has always been possible for any person to bid for the mineral and petroleum permits, (that’s how the companies get them after all)  but they come with a requirement to do exploration work each year, which makes them expensive.

      There is and always has been a requirement that any loss or damage to a surface landholder be justly compensated.  The Govt can’t kick you off for no compensation & nor can any CSG company. Nobody wants to kick anybody off actually.

      What constitutes just compensation is of course debatable, especially if the simple sight of a drilling rig freaks you out. This is the nub of the issue: if the compo is the loss of revenue from produce, plus something for your troubles it’s easy enough to arrive at a figure. If the value of a farm is some nebulous amalgam of the emotional state of the occupants, the belief of the population in some food-security apocalypse, and the certain knowledge gained in the Pub that the guy next door got “millions”, then just compensation is anybody’s guess, or more correctly anybody’s lawsuit. 

      Or in less fancy language: the compensation required by law (and often exceeded by the companies) is, right now,  less than some in the community believe they are entitled to. In a democracy we can work these things out.

      It’s worth remembering too that no one has actually made a lot of money producing CBM in NSW yet. When it’s all hooked up and producing into the grid or to a (yet unbuilt) LNG plant it may do, but right now the only people making actual money are the contractors and yes, whichever farmers have quietly negotiated a decent compensation package.

      So. The cost is not “community”. The cost is thinking sensibly instead of emotively about whether the value of a new industry is worth readjustment by the existing industry, and how to share the pain and benefits fairly. The compensation issue needs cleaning up. However if the whole thing is killed off NSW will just stay as is: buying gas from ExxonMobil in Bass Strait, from Santos in Moomba (while it lasts) and burning coal for electricity.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      09:58pm | 28/09/11

      If the water table becomes polluted or unusable I wonder if the local farmer can take the water board or water authority to court for selling a defective product, the water licence? It would be an interesting test case and could cost the state more than the mineral royalties are worth….

    • ifonly says:

      12:02am | 29/09/11

      There would be no issue if they dug a hole through the farmland to get the coal and paid for damage to land. It became an issue when they dug under the farm land without paying the farmers.

 

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