More science needed into CSG impacts: Senate report

Eco Friendly, Eco Friendly Liquid ProductsConcern over the environmental impact of coal seam gas mining is rising. Communities affected by the new mining boom in Queensland and NSW have welcomed a recent Senate committee report calling for a moratorium on all new projects pending scientific research, particularly into the non-eco-friendly industrial liquids used.

A moratorium should be placed on any future coal seam gas mining projects until more scientific research is conducted, according to a Federal Senate committee.

The committee’s interim report was handed down in late November, 2011 with a final report due in June 2012.

The 24 recommendations contained in the report are aimed at addressing concerns over coal seam gas mining, which critics claim is far from eco-friendly. Industrial liquid waste water is highly saline and can contain chemical residues, which must be disposed of carefully.

The process for extracting the coal seam gas, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, involves forcing a cocktail of chemicals, water and sand into rock cracks to pump out trapped methane.

While methane produces 40 per cent less greenhouse gases than coal-fired power, mining it is not eco-friendly. Liquid products forced deep underground to extract the gas have been linked to pollution of underground water aquifers.

Debate over fracking is extreme. Green MPs, environmental activities and farming communities have called for an immediate halt to any new developments pending more research into whether it’s environmentally friendly. Liquid groundwater contamination would be dire in key farming areas and near drinking water supplies and rivers.

The Senate report has recommended:

  • A moratorium on future CST mining pending an independent assessment of Earth surface movements and whether salt and brine residue can be removed;
  • Due consideration of the impact of CSG mining on surrounding areas with a permanent ban in strategic cropping land;
  • The area where the Murray-Darling Basin and Great Artesian Basin overlap should be off-limits pending the results of at least two scientific studies;
  • A review of the chemicals used in the fracking process (like non-environmental cleaning products, some of these chemicals are carcinogenic).

A ban has been placed on the most dangerous batch known as BTEX. These volatile organic compounds –  benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – have been used in non-eco-friendly industrial fracking liquids. The fracking process itself has also been found to release naturally occurring BTEX, according to the Greens.

The senate committee has acknowledged community opposition to CSG mining, but argued that with careful controls the sector could co-exist peacefully with farmers.

It has said communities should reap the benefits of the booming CSG industry, which it predicts may only last for another 50 years.

Chemicals used in coal seam methane extraction, like non-environmental cleaning products, risk groundwater and soil pollution.

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