Farmers lock out gas explorers

QUEENSLAND farmers “locked the gates” on gas explorers yesterday, beginning a predicted long-term campaign against coal seam gas exploration in the rich agricultural lands of the Darling Downs.

Despite assurances from all of the coal seam gas proponents, farmers in the Bowen and Surat Basins are still not convinced with safety and environmental procedures in extracting CSG from a planned 40,000/55,000 gas wells.

“We’re involved in a non-violent non-co-operation campaign, we are locking the gates to the resource companies because the government land access laws, environmental impacts assessments and approvals are all weighted against farmers,” Friends of the Earth environment campaigner Drew Hutton told The Observer earlier this week.

Queensland minister Stephen Robertson has been in what some would term a game of “catch-up” for a number of months implementing legislation from farmers’ land rights to the chemicals used in the fraccing of the coal seam.

The farmers’ main concern is about the chemicals used in the extraction of CSG after traces of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene) were found in CSG operations.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) director Ross Dunn told The Observer the contract that CSG companies have with chemical suppliers stipulate the chemicals concerned cannot be in the products that they purchase. 

BTEX can occur naturally and traces can be found if a vehicle has driven close to a well, contaminating it. Despite reassurances and CSG companies’ claims that they don’t use these chemicals, the Queensland Government on Tuesday passed legislation banning the use of benzene and other aromatic chemicals in hydraulic fracture stimulation operations.

Some Queensland farmers work with and have accepted CSG companies on to their land.

However, other farmers are still not convinced.

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FILE PHOTO: Dave Hodgson from Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade in 2011.

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