We need some cold hard facts about coal seam gas
This week’s mess in the Pilliga Forest of New South Wales, is the latest evidence of an extremely messy industry.
Communities remain divided over coal seam gas. Especially in Queensland, where it’s splitting votes in the lead up to the state election.
A Newspoll published in The Australian last week found that two-thirds of voters were completely opposed to coal seam gas, with 35 per cent of people claiming that how the state chose to handle the issue would have direct impact on the way they vote in on March 24.
The parliament still hasn’t fully worked through where the Australian community stands on this.
That’s why this week’s blame game played by Santos, with regards to the former operator of the area Eastern Star, is a game no one can win. More to the point no one can understand it.
According to Santos, Eastern Star was responsible for 16 instances of pollution spill, following coal seam gas mining in the area.
But here’s the rub. Santos owned 35 per cent of the mining exploration license in the Pilliga region when the spills in question occurred. Then last November, they completely bought out Eastern Star.
How much impact does this have on who we blame for this mess? And does it really matter? Lack of official information makes it impossible to tell.
Without the results of the parliamentary inquiry, the public can’t have a clear cut understanding of the situation. This prevents them from being able to make up their own mind. Just as they did (rightly or wrongly) with climate change science.
This process is not helped by spivs like Yves-Louis Darricarrer, the visiting head of French energy giant Total, who blew in this week with inflammatory comments like this:
“I feel there is confusion, a lack of correct information,” he said in Perth.
Before adding that coal seam gas holds very little real threat to communities or the environment.
Environmental groups however, don’t see it as such a cut and dry measure:
As a spokesperson from the Wilderness Society told The Punch the Pilliga Forest is an area of pristine Australian bushland, home to twenty threatened species of wildlife and five endangered ecological species.
“It is no place for a gigantic industrial gas field,” said Carmel Flint of the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.
This much is no doubt. There is a huge mess in a pristine pocket of Australia’s largest patch of remnant dryland forest.
But the even bigger mess is that a PR battle is being waged when all anyone really needs is cold, hard facts.
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