Farmers to rally over coal seam gas dangers
Environmental activists and farmers will hold a rally outside Brisbane parliament house tomorrow to call for an end to coal seam gas extraction research due to fears it may cause irreversible environmental damage.
Friends of the Earth spokesperson Bradley Smith said farmers from Kingaroy and the surrounding Surat Basin would join environmental groups at a midday rally to call for a ban on Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) research in South East Queensland.
He said the rally came after a recent UCG contamination incident in Kingaroy highlighted the potential dangers of the research.
Mr Smith said farmers and environmentalists wanted to protect the area from the impacts of coal gas extraction as it was one of the major food producing regions in South East Queensland.
“We don’t want our food producing land to become an experiment or an industrial wasteland,” he said.
Mr Smith said UGC technology involved burning an underground coal seam to extract gas which was used to generate electricity.
The underground burning process produced toxic chemicals, such as Benzine and Toluene, which could leak into nearby ground water reservoirs causing vast environmental damage, he said.
Mr Smith said that earlier in the year tests found traces of these chemicals in underground water supplies near the Kingaroy Cougar energy UCG research plant.
Although the Cougar test burn had been small compared to a commercial operation, it had caused significant pollution to the underground water supply.
“It was only a three day burn and already the Benzine levels were at 70 percent of the allowable limit – in three days. So obviously a full scale plant could have catastrophic consequences,” he said.
Independent state MP for Nanango, Dorothy Pratt, said she supported Kingaroy residents’ call for an end to UCG and would be attending the rally at Parliament House.
She said she raised doubts to parliament in late May over the safety of UCG technology but felt her concerns were ignored.
The parliamentary record on May 20 showed Mrs Pratt asked the Minister for Mines and Energy Stephen Robinson for a moratorium on UCG until the impacts of the technology were known.
In reply Mr Robinson said UCG research projects must meet stringent environmental standards before permits for extraction of coal seam gas would be given.
Mrs Pratt said the recent contamination at Kingaroy had proven there was reason for concern with the new technology.
“Those concerns were justified then and still are,“ she said.
The Department of Energy, Resources and Mining did not respond to requests for comment.