Seven environment groups last week provided a detailed submission to the Federal Senate Inquiry into coal seam gas and the Murray-Darling, arguing that the industry represents one of the gravest new threats that has ever been seen to the Basin.
Maps produced for the submission (see attached) indicate that the majority of petroleum exploration licences in NSW are located in the Murray-Darling Basin, with an extraordinary 12.7 million hectares of the NSW portion of the Basin already covered by licences.
“Based on the scale of exploration licences that have been issued, we are on a trajectory for tens of thousands of coal seam gas wells and tens of thousands of pipelines across the Murray-Darling within NSW if the industry continues unchecked” said Jonathan La Nauze, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth.
“The threats to the water resources of the Murray-Darling are severe. We are dealing with a system that is already drastically over-allocated and where water quality is already degraded.
“The coal seam gas industry will produce vast quantities of toxic coal seam water, will threaten our aquifers with de-watering and contamination, and will use vast amounts of water in the process.
“It makes a mockery of the water reform process which has allocated $10 billion to save the Murray-Darling, if at the very same time this terrible new threat is being allowed to proceed unchecked” he said.
“Our experience from the Namoi Catchment is that coal seam gas is a threat to both our foodbowl on the Liverpool Plains and our iconic, nationally significant bushland in the Pilliga Forest” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Environment Council.
“Our submission focused on the impacts that have already occurred in the Namoi Catchment, particularly on the damage that has occurred under exploration licences in the Pilliga Forest.
“For example, there have been major saline water spills in the Pilliga which have led to extensive tree deaths and there have been numerous reports of drill ponds overflowing during rain events. There has also been major clearing of bushland for gas wells and pipelines.
“The intensity of the coal seam gas industry as it spreads out across the landscape is unlike anything we have ever seen before, and it is clear that poorly-resourced regulatory agencies cannot deal with such a vast environmental footprint.
“We are asking the Senate Inquiry to recommend an immediate moratorium on coal seam gas exploration and production in the Murray-Darling Basin, and for full scientific studies to be conducted into its impacts” she said.
Information or comment: Jonathan La Nauze 0402 904251, Carmel Flint 0400 521474
Copy of submission available on request.