60-minutes "Undermined" - Coal Seam Gas in QLD

Social, legal and health issues related to air and water toxic pollution in Australia.

60-minutes "Undermined" - Coal Seam Gas in QLD

Postby HVPA_research » Tue May 18, 2010 12:33 am

Here are some reflections related to the excellent 60-minutes TV program that run on NineMSN yesterday Sunday night:

How's this for a raw deal?
A big company marches onto your land, sinks a well without your permission and then proceeds to threaten your livelihood.
And it does it all with the consent and approval of the government.
Now this would be bad enough if it was happening halfway across the world in some tin pot dictatorship.
But this is happening in our backyard. And it's our laws and our politicians who are letting it happen

If you missed the show on Sunday, please, take the time and seethe "Undermined" video here.

60-minutes team must be congratulated to this excellent story. They fearlessly said what every landholder who comes into contact with large gas companies knows - there is no justice for people on the land. Big companies and big government simply assume that everything below the topsoil is their to take, to pollute and destroy for a very short term profit. Local residents have no say and are treated with contempt.This is a scary story but, unfortunately, all the bad things they demonstrated about the coal seam gas industry are true. We know, we have been fighting Sydney Gas and now AGL for years!

Now let's have a look at the grisly details. A complete transcript of the story, another very useful feature provided by 60-minutes, is here.

Two man with a gas meter fiddling around a gas well:
MAN WITH DAYNE PRATSKY: That's pretty high. I don't even like being here, mate. I think we should get out of here. That's a lot of gas coming out of there, man. The levels are high, man. Let's go. Let's get out of here.

Methane gas leak around the completed well shows very bad workmanship. The completed gas outlet pipe was supposed to be sealed around with cement. Obviously it was not so. We always hear about "world best standard methods" but there is not much supervision. All work is done by outside contractors who have every incentive to finish quickly, get paid and get out. Company and Government inspectors are very rare birds indeed. Here is a page that describes in vivid colors what can go wrong when drilling and fracking for gas

LIZ HAYES: In Australia, most land - irrespective of who owns it - is subject to being mined if it sits on valuable resources, and here it's coal seam gas, found in the deep veins of coal, metres beneath the ground. It's in vast tracts of Queensland and all over Australia. Coal seam gas wells are already being drilled in WA and NSW.
STEPHEN ROBERTSON: We see it as a very important industry for future job creation and wealth creation here in Queensland.
LIZ HAYES: Gas companies have signed contracts worth up to $100 billion to supply gas to a number of countries for the next 20 years, and according to Queensland's Mines Minister Stephen Robertson it's an industry that has a long life.
STEPHEN ROBERTSON: It's an industry that just in terms of royalties that will come to government is worth around $850 million, but I think, more importantly, if all the projects go ahead we're looking at around 18,000 new jobs.
LIZ HAYES: So it's worth money and it's worth jobs, but for how long?
STEPHEN ROBERTSON: As long as the resource lasts, and the predictions are that Queensland's coal resources have a horizon of at least 200 years.
LIZ HAYES: To date, gas companies are planning to drill 30,000 to 40,000 wells in this area, and about $1,500 a well is paid in compensation, but it is an invasion few landowners are prepared for.

So the Queensland's Mines Minister Stephen Robertson can see great future for the CSG industry. Obviously, he has not heard or does not believe that we have a climate change problem. Most of that wonderful gas will not replace the existing fossil fuels but will be burned in addition to them, mainly in China. This, if you do not believe that climate change is crap, means more CO2 in the atmosphere, more droughts and more cyclones.

The argument about 18,000 new jobs is also a bit overstated and should be seen in the true light. According the Australian Bureau of Statistics data the total number of employed persons in April, 2010 was 11,025,500 (seasonally adjusted). Thus 18,000 in 11 million of the total working population represents only 0.16% - gas extraction industry is not a great employer. Even worse, they do not employ too many locals. Drilling teams are usually composed of experienced out-of-town itinerants.

Finally, paying landowner only $1,500/per well/per year is Kingaroy peanuts. Of course, gas companies may decide to pay a few landholders more so that they would hustle on their behalf but, in general, they do not share much because their profit margins are so "small". You might be interested to know that in the eastern US states, where many landholders own the mineral rights, they usually get 12% or even 20% of the gas production profit in royalties and gas companies still survive very well.
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