Robe Council votes to stop gas harvest

Robe Council votes to stop gas harvest


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BIG TASK: Beach Energy’s exploratory drilling rig has been set up opposite Greenrise Lake, near Penola.

BIG TASK: Beach Energy’s exploratory drilling rig has been set up opposite Greenrise Lake, near Penola.

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THE District Council of Robe has unanimously supported a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction in the region.

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THE District Council of Robe has unanimously supported a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction in the region.

While Beach Energy continues preparations to drill exploratory wells for shale and tight gas at two sites near Penola, councillors on Tuesday night voted against any further activity until the potential risks to groundwater, agriculture and food security, tourism and the region's clean, green image were fully investigated.

"Groundwater integrity is obviously our highest concern as we are a community that is very dependent on it," Mayor Peter Riseley said.

"It's our only source of water.

"We also believe this industry (unconventional gas) is contrary to Premier Jay Weatherhill's vision and key strategic priority for clean, green food, agriculture and wine in the region."

The council received 42 letters from the community asking it to take a stance on unconventional gas and fracking and Mr Riseley believed this indicated a strong level of opposition among the community.

The council will now attempt to get the South East Local Government Association and peak agricultural lobby groups to support a moratorium and write to government ministers.

"Sometimes people sit on the fence until they see others take action, and I'm hoping that this is potentially the start of more recognition of the seriousness of the matter," Mr Riseley said.

"When you see what's going on nationally with unconventional gas - and around the world - I think our community has every right to ask pertinent questions and seek some assurances that we have an integral water supply that isn't compromised in quality."

Community letters showed that there was little confidence in well integrity and assurances that a percentage of wells would not fail over time and cause leakage between aquifers.

The impact of seismic activity on well integrity was also a concern, along with gas venting, chemicals being pumped into the ground to undertake hydraulic fracturing and methane contamination of water resources. Claims of negative health effects resulting from the shale gas industry in the United States were also cited .

A spokesperson for acting Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Jennifer Rankine said risk management strategies had to be defined during the public consultation process and potentially affected stakeholders, such as local governments, had to be provided with credible and sufficient information and time to draw considered views so their rights to object were supported.

"No petroleum exploration, development or production can go ahead in SA until public consultation is undertaken and potential risks to social, natural and economic environments are assessed," she said.

"This is world-leading practice and will continue to be SA's foundation for either approving or refusing any forms of petroleum well operations.

"These decisions are based on the science, not emotion."

A Beach Energy spokesperson said wells were installed with pressure gauges checked regularly for the life of the producing well.

* Full report in Stock Journal, January 16, 2014 issue.

The story Robe Council votes to stop gas harvest first appeared on Farm Online.

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