The Australian - 28.5.2011 - Graham Lloyd (Environment Editor)
KYOGLE farmer Jim O’Neill has seen the US documentary GasLand and heard the rumours of meat contamination on the Darling Downs.
His livelihood and lifestyle has been built on the pristine creek flats in the shadow of the World Heritage-listed Border Ranges National Park, which straddles the Queensland-NSW border, and he is not interested in taking any chances with it.
“If there is any risk at all I don’t want it,” O’Neill says.
Like many landholders across eastern Australia, O’Neill is worried about coal seam gas, which — rightly or wrongly – has assumed the reputation of a government-sanctioned environmental monster.
As a symbol of the pent-up pressures straining Australia’s rapidly growing coal seam gas industry, it is difficult to go past what happened at Tom O’Connor’s 4500 acre (1820ha) cropping and grazing property, 25km west of Dalby, this week.
Contract drillers working for Arrow Energy — a joint venture between petroleum giant Shell and Petro China — lost control of one of the wells on O’Connor’s land, sending a high-pressure plume of gas and salt water a reported 100m into the air.
”I didn’t give permission for gas wells; I didn’t have a choice,” O’Connor says. “The company told me it was going to put gas wells on my property and I couldn’t say no.
“The company certainly didn’t turn up on my door and say it was going to have gas leak one, two, three and four.”
The right of access is one issue raised by CSG exploration. It challenges the bush-lawyer belief that a man’s house is his castle.
Cotton growers, eco-tourists, crack-of-dawn dairy workers, lifestyle hippies, mango growers, corporate drop-out tree changers and outback cattle runners are speaking with a single voice: “Stop the madness.”