Fraccing in group sights

Claire TyrrellCountryman
The West logo

Community members are banding together to help protect WA's rural landscape from the impact of hydraulic fracturing (fraccing).

Up to 100 people gathered at a public meeting in Perth last week to air their views on the controversial mining method.

The forum, hosted by the Conservation Council of WA, led to the formation of a group to support the push against fraccing in rural areas.

About a dozen people joined the group, which met the next day to discuss ways to campaign against the industry.

Fraccing is the process by which 'unconventional' gas is extracted and involves pumping a cocktail of chemicals into the ground at high pressure.

Miners have begun fraccing in the Mid West, with projects approved in Dongara, Eneabba and Badgingarra.

WA Greens water spokeswoman Alison Xamon addressed the forum about differences between fraccing in the eastern states and in WA.

"There has been a lot of confusion about the issue of fraccing and how it pertains to WA," Ms Xamon sad.

"WA is not considered largely prospective for coal seam gas but contains mainly shale and tight gas.

"Shale is sourced at much greater depth, which raises different technical challenges."

Ms Xamon spoke about the Queensland-based "lock the gate" alliance, formed by farmers fighting off mining companies coming onto their land.

"Most of the shale in WA is available on pastoral lands, so we don't have the same lock the gate issues they have over east," she said.

Drilling for shale gas has proved problematic in the US and several States banned fraccing after local water supplies were contaminated.

Department of Mines and Petroleum executive director of environment Phil Gorey defended the State Government's approach to the issue but admitted there was a need for tighter laws around fraccing.

He also spoke about the environmental regulations around fraccing in the US, saying that many of the issues in the US arose because fraccing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the energy Policy Act (2005).

Meanwhile, the national focus on coal seam gas was reinvigorated this week after the Federal Government announced the establishment of a scientific committee to build confidence in coal seam gas and coal mining.

Taxpayer funding of $150 million will go towards establishing new scientific frameworks around such mining projects.

The committee is expected to advise the Government on ways to mitigate environmental impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining.

The Government will provide $50 million of incentives to the States to incorporate the committee's recommendations in legislation.

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