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Bowen group calls for rigorous investigation into proposed Coal Seam Gas industry

A Bowen community-based organisation is appealing to the public to support the call for a balanced and rigorous investigation into the emerging local coal seam gas industry.

The group – Residents Action Association (RAA) – has screened the compelling and award winning film Gaslands to packed audiences at Bowen and Collinsville after concerns of water table contamination caused outrage among farmers in the south of the state at Kingaroy and Surat.

Bowen RAA president, Maria Macdonald said the film Gasland is a revealing analysis of the American gas industry with effects of contaminated water supplies, sick populations, pollution and destruction of country. We ask could this happen here?

The film includes shots of tap water igniting in a kitchen sink and similar emotive scenes as well as cogent arguments on serious health risks.

Arrow Energy has sunk numerous test bores in recent months in the coal seam around Bowen, Proserpine and Collinsville and Whitsunday Regional Shire Councillor Jan Clifford is extremely concerned.

She said her protests were more as a private citizen but voiced her agitation at last week’s council meeting.

Outside, she said local farmers, with the backing of local Canegrowers board member, Del Linneweber, were concerned that drillers could walk on to any farm, without permission, and start prospecting. “They don’t even have to get permits from council,” she said.

“All the information about what Arrow Energy is doing has been kept secret. They have a right to enter property and the biggest concern is when they drill through the aquifer.

“She said water can be contaminated by benzene and up to another 190 chemicals.

“Canegrowers at Proserpine are outraged and we expect a similar outcry from vegetable growers in the Bowen region,” Cr Clifford said.

Ms Macdonald said RAA was concerned because of the known effects of the largely experimental nature of the industry.

“Eighty per cent of Queensland is covered by mining exploration permits and the State Government has announced it will fully assist the gas and coal miners who are now having conflicting interests over land tenures.

“What about landowners, farmers and other industry?

“RAA is a member of Lock the Gate Alliance supporting landowners and communities protecting their land from mining and CSG and is calling for the immediate establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate all impacts of coal and gas mining and an immediate moratorium until a robust legislative framework is in place. Ms Macdonald said.

We are calling for the elimination of the fast track planning processes with coal seam gas mining and groundwater preservation requirements to be protected under law. A pilot program near Kingaroy was put on hold in July after toxic chemicals were found in water supplies there.

A company spokesman said it was a mystery how the chemicals got there.

The coal seam gas industry is worth an estimated $3 billion a year to the Queensland Government, which is desperate for new revenue streams after being forced into the recent assets sell-off. So far the industry has the full support of the State Government but protestors say it is similar to oil shale project which had similar government backing about five years ago.

The Beattie-led Government was forced to abandon that controversial drilling after a massive public backlash.

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