Updated: May 05, 2011
Healthy Rivers and Coal Seam Gas - A Fractured Relationship
Coal Seam Gas is emerging as a massive public issue. Gaslands, farmers and locals standing up to multi-national corporations, community blockades in Queensland, and growing problems in New South Wales have captured the public’s imagination.
But just what are the environmental impacts of this enormous new industry? And what is the Wilderness Society in NSW doing about it?
Coal Seam Gas (or CSG) exists in waterlogged coal seams. A bore is drilled, and the salty and often toxic water and gas are pumped to the surface. This can be preceded by a process called ‘fracking’, where a cocktail of chemicals and fuels are pumped into the seam to fracture the rock, thus allowing the water to escape
CSG extraction results in a number of significant environmental impacts. Firstly, the chemicals in fracking fluid and that exist naturally in the coal seam can pollute underground aquifers.
Depending on the geology, these chemicals can migrate between aquifer layers, and can pollute large areas that can’t be remediated. Some CSG activities in NSW occur in extremely sensitive areas, such as the Murray-Darling and Great Artesian Basins, and upstream of World Heritage Areas such as the Wollemi National Park.
Secondly, huge quantities of water are removed. Unlike other water users, these removals are unlicensed. There are reports of falling groundwater levels as a direct result of CSG operations in Queensland, and the Eastern Star Gas Project in the Pilliga could take large quantities of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin. This has widespread impacts on landscapes and rivers.
Thirdly, huge volumes of salt are extracted, with inadequate disposal methods. One gas company was caught dumping waste water from a bore in a paddock in the Hunter Valley last least year, while another is dumping wastewater into creeks in the Namoi catchment.
In some areas, CSG operations also clear large areas of remnant vegetation. In the iconic Pilliga scrub a new 550-well project will fragment 75,000 ha of forest, including the habitat of the endemic and threatened Pilliga Mouse.
In NSW we live in an already stressed and fragmented landscape. Our rivers are the most degraded in Australia. Less than 3% are in their natural state. CSG threatens groundwater and surface water with pollution, depletion, salination, and wastewater dumping.
The Wilderness Society's Sydney and Newcastle Campaign Centres are committed to ensuring that our waterways are protected from the threat posed by CSG.
Gas developments in the Eyre Basin, in the state’s northwest, threaten our healthiest and most spectacular rivers. Others threaten the health of rivers flowing through national parks in Wollemi and the Blue Mountains. The Manning River, the Namoi, the Northern Rivers, and many others are also subject to coal seam gas threats.
To protect our environment, The Wilderness Society NSW is calling for an immediate moratorium on coal seam gas. Currently, the industry is conducting a giant experiment with a landscape that needs more protection, not more damage.
NSW needs an independent, transparent, robust and scientifically-based assessment of what coal seam gas will do to our rivers and our environment.
Our rivers are the lifeblood of the country. We believe NSW’s rivers deserve better, and we’ll be working to ensure that they get the protection they need.
You can provide the crucial support we need to continue to fight coal seam gas mining in Australia. Become a member today.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Newcastle Inc
Hunter Heritage Centre,
90 Hunter Street,
Newcastle, NSW, 2300
Phone: 02 4929 4395