Geelong Council to make a decision about fracking

On the next ordinary meeting of Geelong Council – which is held on Tuesday 14 October 2014 at the Council Conference and Reception Centre, City Hall, Little Malop Street, Geelong, commencing at 7:00pm – councillors will make a decision on the municipality’s official stand on fracking.

We hope to see many of our region’s fracktivists attending this meeting.

Geelong Council received a total of 449 submissions about fracking. Of these 447 were opposed to onshore gas extraction and in particular the use of hydraulic fracking. 10 of the submissions were included in the agenda document for the councillors to read. See below.

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The following is the recommendation from council staff which the 13 Geelong councillors will be voting on at their meeting:

Greater Geelong City Council – 14 October 2014
Agenda for Ordinary Meeting
SECTION B – REPORTS – Page 35

ONSHORE GAS EXTRACTION REPORT

Portfolio: Environment and Sustainability – Cr Richards
Source: City Services
General Manager: Gary Van Driel
Index Reference: Mining/Extractive Industries, Minerals

Purpose
The purpose of this Report is to inform Council of the results of the onshore gas extraction submissions process as well as provide Council with recommendations regarding this matter.

Summary
• For many decades, Victoria has had access to low cost electricity and gas, which has provided a major competitive advantage and underpinned its strong and diverse economy. Natural gas accounts for 19 per cent of all energy used in Victoria.

• With the completion of new large scale export facilities, domestic consumers will compete with international consumers for gas. It is expected that the price of gas will significantly increase to approach international prices.

• Victoria has no coal seam gas (CSG) production or confirmed resources but there are a number of licences for exploration, one of which includes areas within the City of Greater Geelong.

• The Victorian Government has put a halt on approvals for new CSG exploration licences and approvals and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) a technique used to stimulate hard-to-reach gas deposits.

• Council has received a significant amount of feedback on Council’s Draft Environment Management Strategy regarding the potential impacts of coal seam gas, tight gas, and shale gas fracking within the municipality including its environment, agricultural land and land access issues on CSG mining on private land.

• At the 22 July 2014 Ordinary Council Meeting it was resolved that a 30-day process be commenced to educate Council on the issue of ‘fracking’, and that this process will be followed by Council taking public submissions on the issue of Coal Seam Gas Extraction and in particular, the ‘fracking’ process, for a period of one month commencing 25 August 2014.

• A Briefing Note and Information Pack were prepared to assist Council, in-line with the Notice of Motion, and the Manager Stakeholder and Community relations from Clean Coal Victoria section of the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation presented at the Councillor briefing Session on the 19th August 2014.

• A total of 449 submissions were received. Of these 447 were opposed to onshore gas extraction and in particular the use of hydraulic fracking.

• The primary concerns in the submissions opposed to onshore gas extraction and hydraulic fracking were contamination of land, air and water, health concerns, noise pollution, decrease in property values and the need to utilise renewable energy sources.

• Only one detailed submission was forthcoming in support of onshore gas extraction.


Recommendation
That Council:

1) note the high number of submissions received opposing onshore gas extraction and hydraulic fracking;

2) write to the Victorian government requesting an indefinite extension to the existing moratorium until;

a) the Victorian Government carry out extensive community consultation in potentially affected Geelong communities and;

b) undertakes research into any potential social, economic and environmental and health impacts of unconventional gas exploration and development; and

c) there is broad community support for the development of an onshore gas industry; and

3) write to the Victorian and Federal governments requesting support for the development of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels in the provision of heating, cooling and power.


Background
For many decades, Victoria has had access to low cost electricity and gas, which has provided a major competitive advantage and underpinned its strong and diverse economy. Natural gas accounts for 19 per cent of all energy used in Victoria. With the completion of new large scale export facilities, domestic consumers will compete with international consumers for gas. It is expected that the price of gas will significantly increase to approach international prices.

Victoria has no coal seam gas (CSG) production or confirmed resources but there are a number of licences for exploration, one of which includes areas within the City of Greater Geelong. The Victorian Government has put a halt on approvals for new coal seam gas exploration licences and approvals and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) a technique used to stimulate hard-to-reach gas deposits.

Council has received a significant amount of feedback on Council’s Draft Environment Management Strategy regarding the potential impacts of coal seam gas, tight gas, and shale gas fracking within the municipality including its environment, agricultural land and land access issues on coal seam gas mining on private land. At the 22 July 2014 Ordinary Council Meeting it was resolved that a 30-day process be commenced to educate Council of the issue of ‘fracking’, and that this process will be followed by Council taking public submissions on the issue of coal seam gas extraction and in particular, the ‘fracking’ process, for a period of one month commencing 25 August. A Briefing Note and Information Pack were prepared to assist Council, in-line with the Notice of Motion and the Manager Stakeholder and Community relations from Clean Coal Victoria section of the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation presented at the Councillor briefing Session on the 19th August.

Discussion
A total of 449 submissions were received during the 1 month submission period. Of these 447 were opposed to onshore gas extraction and in particular the use of hydraulic fracking. The submissions ranged from simple one line statements to lengthy multi-page submissions. A sample of the submissions is included in Appendix 1.

Copies of the submission have been made available to Councillors.

The primary concerns listed in the submissions opposed to onshore gas extraction and hydraulic fracking were contamination of land air and water, impacts of groundwater, health concerns, noise pollution, decrease in property values and the need to utilise renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. A summary of the comments regarding these concerns is as follows;

a) Contamination of land, air and water
Submissions raised concerns that contamination of land, air and water would occur via the use of chemicals and waste by-products, including saltwater and methane. Submissions were concerned about accidental chemical and waste spills, inability to store and dispose of waste products. Of particular concern was the use of hydraulic fracking and associated use of chemicals which are injected into the ground and which may migrate into groundwater.

b) Groundwater impacts
Submissions stated that significant amounts of water are required to enable hydraulic fracking and it was not known where this would come from. It was also submitted that use of water for the onshore gas industry would complete with usage for other activities including farming and domestic supply.

c) Health concerns
Concerns were specifically raised regard the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) in the fracking process. These compounds are some of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in petroleum derivatives such as petrol (gasoline) and have potential health impacts1.The Victorian government has recently banned the use of BTEX chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to extract coal seam gas. Submissions highlighted concerns regarding air pollution caused by methane leakage from onshore gas extraction. Concerns were also raised regarding noise from truck movements, drilling, machinery and other processes, particularly in rural environments. Submissions highlighted the risk of accidents occurring and the potential damage that these might cause and the difficultly in cleaning up chemical spills.

d) Decrease in Property Values and other land uses
Submissions raised concerns about the potential negative perceptions of supporting an onshore gas industry (fossil fuel) in the Geelong region. It was felt that this would be to the detriment of the regions tourism and agricultural sectors. It was also submitted that the development of an onshore gas industry would decrease property values and only bring short term profit to large international companies.

e) Utilise renewable energy
Many submissions stated that Geelong should be moving away from fossil fuels and supported the development of renewable energy sector. This would provide the platform for future economic and job growth for the region as well as decrease environmental impacts.

The only detailed submission in support of onshore gas extraction submitted that there were many benefits of natural gas usage in Australia, proposed that many attending recent anti-fracking rallies were from ‘other areas’ and put forward views and ‘facts’ about natural gas extraction

This submission put forward the following to support the extraction and use of gas;
• Natural gas has been drilled since 1947, first in the USA, then Canada, Europe and Australia, without environmental calamity.
• In Australia, gas extraction activities have been studied by health, environmental and regulatory bodies in Queensland, NSW and WA, as well as Federally. Study is underway in Victoria. No State in Australia, or overseas, has banned natural gas drilling.
• Natural gas drilling can and does co-exist with agriculture – most notably in Queensland and in Camden in NSW (on the southern outskirts of Sydney).
• Farmers do benefit from hosting natural gas wells. More than 5000 land owners have entered into commercial agreements with gas drillers in Queensland alone.
• Regional centres benefit from gas resource development, in local employment, service delivery businesses and direct spending by companies and workers
• The gas industry brings substantial economic benefits for land holders, communities and the nation, without compromising other industries, including tourism.
Queensland expects to be the country’s highest growth State in 2015, on the back of the gas industry.
• More than 40,000 people are employed in the gas industry in Queensland alone.
• Billions will be paid nationwide in taxes and royalties in 2015 and beyond.

Environmental Implications
The full environmental impacts of onshore gas extraction are likely to be unknown at this stage. There are risks associated with any industry, particularly those in rural areas, and the extraction of natural gas has the potential to result in land, air and water pollution. It should be noted however that strong regulations and implementation of best practice techniques, and technology can substantially reduce any risks. Natural gas (methane) is a greenhouse gas and its usage will contribute to increases in greenhouse gases within the atmosphere which may result in climate change and other impacts.

Financial Implications
There are no direct financial implications on Council as a result of the recommendation in this report

Policy/Legal/Statutory Implications
The state government ultimately determines whether the development of an onshore gas extraction industry will proceed

Alignment to City Plan
The recommendations in this report align with supporting our community to live sustainably under the Sustainable Built and Natural Environment pillar.

Officer Direct or Indirect Interest
There is no officer direct or indirect interest in this report.

Risk Assessment
Many submissions advocated that Council should adopt a precautionary risk based approach regarding the development of an onshore gas extraction industry. Further work is required to assess the potential environmental and health risks.

Social Considerations
There is considerable community concern regarding the potential impacts of onshore gas extraction, including the use of fracking in the Geelong region.

Human Rights Charter
There are no human rights charter issues resulting from the recommendation in this report.

Consultation and Communication
Council has conducted an engagement process which has yielded over 400 submissions, Council has been provided with information and material relating to onshore gas extraction and had a presentation from State government representatives.

Council’s position on onshore gas extraction will need to be reflected in its Environmental Management Strategy, currently in draft form. Community engagement has been extensive.

(1) www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/dc6c0439-ac47-4c53-981a-
876fa8d8e6d4/files/report6-appendices.pdf


Example submission 1;

Dear Councillors,

There are a number of issues to be considered, these include

Potential damage which is caused by the use of rural, conservation or open space land for fracking purposes will be irreversible. There will be no going back to the original condition of the land when the gas is exhausted. Natural justice would indicate that clean air, water and access to privately owned agricultural land and public open space is a right. The legislation which allows an industry the absolute right to whatever is underneath a landowners topsoil without the permission of the owner, appears to have been suitable for the 1800,s but certainly not appropriate in the 2000’s. It is therefore urged that Council strongly opposes fracking in general within its boundaries.

XXXXX urges that COGG Council join with Surf Coast and other regional councils to lobby Government to extend the moratorium in perpetuity and protect Victoria from this damaging and polluting industry. It is understood that the companies concerned will produce gas for export, which will cause a rise in local gas prices, (perhaps not understood by gas supporters).

Hazards which may result from the fracking industry include –

• Excessive use of water in the fracking process with the potential for a shortage of potable water for Geelong and district

• Impossibility for storage of the ‘waste water’ from the process of fracking, which is highly polluted with chemicals and cannot be returned to rivers or streams or placed in storage dams. No solution to this problem has been achieved.

• The potential for groundwater to become polluted from the introduction of water laced with chemicals used to achieve the fracturing of the rock areas. Groundwater is a valuable asset and no potential risk should be allowed.

• The potential for methane to be released into the atmosphere

• Loss of agricultural land for food production or natural areas and public spaces for recreation and conservation.

• Disturbance in local areas with damage to roads and noise pollution from drilling and transport

• Each drill site requires an area the size of a football field which will be disturbed or covered with a hard surface. Farm paddocks will be crisscrossed with tracks and roads for the trucks to move between the drillings.

• The fact that this industry is ‘once only’ and the land used for farming and often cared for by generations of farmers will be severely degraded and useless for food production

It is clear that farmers and landholders in this region are strongly opposed to any introduction of this very damaging industry and should be supported in their efforts to protect our landscapes and farmlands from a mining industry.


Example submission 2;

Dear Mayor, City of Greater Geelong Councillors, and Mr Thomas

The fossil fuel extraction company Lakes Oil has a licence to drill in our region. I look forward to hearing what concrete action Council will take in regard to cancelling or opposing this drilling licence to Lakes Oil under the Exploration Permit 163. At the moment it looks like that fracking operations is something that could begin in our region from next year, when the state moratorium on fracking runs out. Judging from the state government’s website – and contrary to the “Not on my guard” election promises from Premier Denis Napthine – both state government and the fossil fuel industry appears to be very eager to get started.

In New South Wales, the onshore gas industry – according to sources within the industry itself – is paying $135 million in land access payments to farmers and landowners, and the NSW government’s revenue is estimated to be $1.6 billion. A 49-page report from 2013, ‘Getting gas right: Australia’s energy challenge’, talks about producing an estimated $50 billion-a-year gas industry in Australia by 2017, and about Australia’s role in a so-called “gas revolution” created by surging demand in Asia.

“We believe that the US shale gas revolution is about to hit Australia’s shores,” “the potential size of Australia’s shale gas resources is truly enormous,” writes the gas extraction company RFC Ambrian. “It’s Cleaner. It’s Safer. It’s Jobs. It Is The Future,” proclaims the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, APPEA. And accordingly, lots of money appears to have been invested already in trying to convince our elected representatives and decision makers in government to let what I would call “the fracking nightmare” roll out here in Victoria.

Our faith in democracy at stake
I will give some examples which explain why it will become a nightmare, if you allow this to happen. I will give you some of the reasons why I don’t think we should allow fracking for gas in Victoria – ever. You need to understand that people in your municipality are quite upset about this. “How can this happen in a democratic society when a vast majority of the population is against it?” they rightfully question. Citizens feel that their legal and civil rights have been take away from them. Old laws from another century – those days when gold mining was a big thing here in Victoria – have never been modernised, and this means that when the state government grants a licence to a gas company, as it has done with Lakes Oil in our region, the legislation actually allows Lakes Oil to mine anywhere within that licence, even if it is on private land. In order to maintain good public relations, most mining companies do try to gain permission from land-holders, but in reality a land-holder has no legal right to stop mining from occurring on their land.

In legal terms, people don’t even have the right to lock the gate on their own property and refuse gas mining on their land, and so far, I haven’t seen or heard anyone in politics advocating for an update of these old laws. This needs to change. What we need to understand here is that what is happening with the fracking question is that people’s faith in democracy is being shattered. Fracking creates anxiety and tension, and it makes otherwise normal peaceful citizens lose faith in the democratic processes and move over to unusual and often very messy civil disobedience measures with sad and expensive consequences for everyone. This is one aspect of what it is at stake if you allow this industry to enter our municipality.

Dangerous air pollution
I see some very serious problems arising in our society at the moment. The most urgent of these problems is that we are collectively ignoring what science is telling us, almost screaming at us, at the moment: that we have to stop burning fossil fuels. We have to stop filling the air with our tonnes and tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The solution is to quickly switch over to solar, to wind, to hydro power instead, and the good news is that there are so many good reasons to start doing that, economically, health-wise, and so on.

Even so, it is not really happening at the rate and at the scale which the scientists are advising us we should be doing this. You probably noticed the warnings coming from the UN Summit in New York about the same topic this week. Extensive reports from the Climate Panel of the United nations, IPPC, use more urgent language at each successive report to say we must stop burning fossil fuels if we want future generations to avoid a total runaway climate disaster.

And no, unconventional gas is not cleaner than coal – and it does not make environmental sense to use it as a “bridge fuel”. That is industry spin. Recent peer-reviewed science from Cornell University as well as several other universities raise serious doubts about the industry’s claim that gas is “cleaner than coal”, in particular because of the fugitive emissions at every stage of its extraction through to use.

Every dollar spent on gas is one we don’t get to spend on renewables, which – slows down the transition to a post carbon world. Investment in gas mining removes focus and economy from the transition to renewables and sustainable jobs. Gas mining is creating an unnecessary detour away from where we need to get to.

If you understand the latest peer-reviewed climate science, then you are aware that we must leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid runaway climate change. This gives you a great responsibility. Because we can see that that won’t happen unless you, our elected leaders in City of Greater Geelong, step in, take some real leadership and legislate in this area:

1) Ban onshore gas extraction once and for all

2) Move investments from fossil fuels over to renewables.

Worrying health impacts
When taking a position on fracking we must first of all look at its impacts on our health and safety – that fracking is risky gambling with drinking water and health. However, the issue also raises a question about which connection we would like to have with the land that we live on, and to that end, which possibilities we would like to have in terms of cultivating tourism.

Another issue with fracking, which you must take into account when you make your decision, is that our farmland becomes an industrial zone with lights, noise and truck movements 24/7, and how this affects the local tourism industry. We have seen this in Queensland and in the United States. Many more trucks will be on our roads. The landscape becomes mutilated by drilling towers and machinery. Geelong region’s reputation as an area for tourism gets ruined, and the real estate value of houses near gas mining wells drops.

Fracking has become known to be a very destructive industry that pumps toxic chemicals deep down in the ground and leaves us with lakes of poisonous water that we can’t get rid of. The industry claims that it knows what to do with the produced waste water, but the reality is that it doesn’t. Naturally occurring toxic chemicals and active elements which have been trapped in the rocks which are fractured are released with the gas. These plus 60 percent of the initial injected chemicals are returned to the surface. Not even reverse osmosis can remove some of these. Often these are just put into the local sewerage treatment system. Even the chemicals and elements which reverse osmosis can remove still have to be disposed of. They don’t just vanish. Where to?

The negative effects on our health, on our environment and the climate are all very well documented by now, and I assume you have been made aware of that.

The local pollution from fugitive emissions, toxic chemicals, mining equipment and particulates from diesel powered equipment causes citizens who live near the gas wells to get sick – and apart from the individual problems this causes, the bill for this sickness eventually becomes a bill to you, the Council, and to our society. The mining industry has impact on people living nearby and workers who are exposed to the chemicals and pollution. A study which recently came out of Yale University found that people who lived near oil and unconventional gas operations had greater respiratory illnesses and skin rashes than those who lived further away. And regardless of what the industry claims, accidents happen. Water contamination happens. The industry at the same time won’t give any guarantees that water contamination won’t happen. Evidence both from Queensland and the United States shows that this is happening. In terms of the chemicals being used for hydraulic fracturing, the industry only mentions the least offensive ones – vinegar, ‘many of the chemicals are under people’s sinks’, or ‘chemicals used in making ice-cream’. Very few of the chemicals they use have been tested for health effects on people and animals, let alone when they are used in combination.

The real bill is left unpaid
The only reason that fracking is taking place and happening even so – especially in Queensland, but also now possibly coming to Victoria, and maybe even to our region – is that there are some people out there who are making a lot of money on this (most of them not even living in Australia), while we, the rate payers, are unfairly left with all the bills to pay and the destruction of our land.

The mining industry has some very bad records for not cleaning up after itself, and unconventional gas mining is only profitable because costs of cleaning up and climate damage are not made a part of the equation.

What drives the gas mining industry forward is a desire to make profits. Local communities in Queensland are seeing the devastating consequences of this industry: Only a few people benefit financially from it, and they are not held accountable by authorities to pay the bills for the damage they create in the ground as well as in the air. Take a look at Tara in the Western Darling Downs for nightmarish health and community impacts. It becomes the local community which must bear the burden of the industry’s environmental impacts while the profits go elsewhere. Why should we, the citizens, accept being treated like that?

See through the industry spin and lies
‘Facts’ and ‘the science’ is being used as an argument for allowing onshore gas mining. Like the ‘fact’ that there has never been a ‘proven case’ of contamination of ground water because of fracking. This is not true. Facts and science can be manipulated and deliberately miscommunicated and many other myths are being created to delay the inevitable transition away from fossils fuels over to renewables. I can see that CoGG and the Victorian Government as well as local media all refer to studies and research carried out by CSIRO as if it was a reliable and ‘neutral’ scientific source. I suggest you ask yourself: Can the branch of CSIRO working on unconventional gas be relied on to be impartial when they are funded by the unconventional gas industry? They clearly cannot!

Regardless of the aggressive ‘fact claiming’ rhetoric flying through the air and through local media columns, there is one 100 per cent indisputable argument as to why unconventional gas mining must be permanently banned. That is the fact that gas is a fossil fuel and a greenhouse gas. The methane, which leaks in the gas production, is a fossil fuel and an extremely potent greenhouse gas. The greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels which we flood our atmosphere and oceans with are damaging our planet to a point where it is getting really dangerous now. It could get out of hand for humanity within the life time of our children, according to scientists in the United Nations’ Climate Panel.

Investing in gas mining in our area is not only locking us into polluting the air with more carbon, which is the wrong thing to do – we all know that, even most of those who pretend to ignore or oppose it – instead of going over to solar, wind and hydro, and so on, as our main sources for electricity. When on top of that you add the riskfactors involved and the fact that fossil fuels in general are not just dangerous to the climate, they are very dangerous to our health as well, then switching over to renewable energy sources becomes a very obvious choice. Gas can explode, and the gas production involves a lot of risks. Renewable energy sources don’t involve any such health risks. Add to that that the gas prices are continuously rising. More fracking won’t make gas cheaper to the consumer. On the contrary, prices are expected to triple soon. Meanwhile, prices on renewables are dropping – and will continue to drop.

The list of good reasons to ban fracking appears to be almost endless. As Victoria and Geelong gets drier and drier because of climate change, the gas extraction companies’ excessive use of millions litres of water in itself represents a threat. You will need to consult with Barwon Water about this.

The vast quantities of water needed to release oil and gas by fracturing rock formations are not available in many of the large areas with the richest deposits – and globally this poses a major challenge to the viability of fracking. According to a report by the World Resources Institute, 38 per cent of the areas where unconventional gas and oil is most abundant is arid or already under severe water stress – and the 386 million people living in these areas need all the spare water they can get.

Please apply for the exemption
Our neighbours in Surf Coast Shire have put forward a motion on Unconventional Gas Exploration and Development expressing concern about potential impacts and lack of regulatory framework. (See council minutes for motion details, page 177). It seems the Shire can apply to be exempt from this type of mining, but needs the community to ask council, through letters and emails, to apply for the exemption. I therefore ask City of Greater Geelong Council to apply for this extension as Surf Coast Shire is doing, and ensure that City of Greater Geelong remains gas mining free.

Help stop this intergenerational theft
Gas mining jobs are not needed here, there are many more jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and that is the path we need to invest in. In California, for every job lost to fossil fuels, 50 new jobs have been created in energy efficiency. The most basic and fundamental question you as councillors must ask yourselves is probably: Why should we allow further investments in a fossil exploration and exploitation such as gas when we all know that what we urgently need to invest in is modern and clean, renewable energy technology? There comes a time when we must say ‘stop it’, and that time is now. Fracking is intergenerational theft. It is a shortsighted and amoral to provide energy in a world that needs to decarbonise its energy production.


Submission example 3;

Dear councillors,

I write to you as a very concerned lifelong resident of Geelong on the issue of fracking.

In the last 2 years I have taken the time to educate myself on many environmental issues including the extremely dangerous process of gas extraction known as fracking. I have learnt about the process itself and the effect it has had on towns that have been fracked and the picture is very clear – allowing gas companies to frack Geelong would be catastrophic for our region. The risks to our precious land and water supply, the health risks to our residents, the list goes on.

But apart from the innumerable negative effects it would directly have on Geelong, there is simply no sense to fracking. The simple fact is gas can no longer be extracted from the ground conventionally or unconventionally. The burning of fossil fuels is causing global warming which is creating an unstable climate. Geelong is not immune to the effects of climate change. Quite the contrary – we are a bayside town!!! We can help protect our beautiful town by making smart choices. Geelong has such a wonderful opportunity right now for clean energy technology manufacturing. Geelong is more than ready to be a ‘Clean Tech Hub’.

Councillors – you have the power to help create a safe, resilient, frack-free future for Geelong. Please use that power.


Submission example 4;

I wish to register my opposition to fracking in the Geelong area. Given the issues related to global warming and climate change, I firstly think that to uncover yet another fossil fuel makes no sense. Apart from this, the practice of fracking is invasive environmentally and potentially damaging to the underground water system. Reading accounts of the effects on locals when fracking has moved into different farming/winery/tourist areas in Australia gives some insight into its invasiveness in communities. Why would Geelong even consider letting this practice start here?
There are other ways to harness energy. Will Geelong City Council show any leadership in this area?


Submission example 5;

I would like it duly noted that I am totally opposed to any form of unconventional (fracking) gas mining/ exploration in the Geelong Region. I believe we should be expanding and transitioning into renewable energy. Fracking is a destructive energy source, puts our water supply at high risk of contamination and is not necessary. The jobs created are minimal and we know that most of the gas is exported so that fact that ‘they’ purport it is for our future energy supplies to prevent shortage is nothing more than a lie. Profits are for a few. There is no community gain in this industry.


Submission example 6;

I write as a worried Geelong resident to raise my serious concerns about fracking coming to the Geelong region. No doubt you will receive many submissions from similarly concerned residents RE: why fracking should be BANNED in the region (and essentially, across the entire world), but here are five points that I read some time ago in an article online that I believe accurately sum up my main reasons for opposing fracking so instead of reinventing the wheel I have posted them here;

http://www.rodalenews.com/fracking-2

Natural gas is not clean. Natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels, but in the course of its entire life cycle, it’s actually worse than coal, long touted as the dirtiest of our fossil fuels. Because fracking involves mixing millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground at high pressure, it creates fissures in the shale that release the natural gas. Life cycle analysis expert Robert Howarth, PhD, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University, discovered that anywhere from 3.6 to nearly 8 percent of the methane from shale gas drilling escapes through venting and leaks. Methane is a
greenhouse gas about 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

2. Howarth’s latest life cycle calculations updated in January 2011 find that when considering the burning of natural gas, and the methane leaks that fracking creates, shale gas produces 1.20- to 2.1-fold more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to coal during a 20-year time period. Methane leaks are worse during the actual fracking process, but they continue to slowly seep over long periods of time. When considering this, natural gas is on par with coal when looking at greenhouse gas production over a 100-year period, the Cornell research shows.

3. Fracking chemicals are extremely dangerous. Since most natural gas drilling companies will not disclose all of the products they use in the drilling process, Theo Colborn, PhD, founder and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, set out to figure out what’s in the chemical cocktails used to drill wells and frack. She and her team found 649 different chemicals, more than half of which are known to disrupt the endocrine system. Exposure to these types of chemicals has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome (the name for a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes). Fifty-five percent of the chemicals cause brain and nervous system damage, and many are linked to cancer and organ damage. The threat of exposure to these chemicals occurs via contaminated air, water, and soil. “They’re getting away with absolute murder; it’s criminal, the things they’re doing,” says award-winning scientist Colborn. “If you destroy an aquifer, you’ve lost it. You’ve destroyed your drinking water supply.”

4. Natural gas drilling turns clean country air to smog. Even if drilling and the fracking process run completely according to plan with no leaks, no methane migration into drinking water wells, no explosions, and no issues dealing with wastewater, air pollution from fracking is inevitable. It’s part of the process, as huge condensate tanks and compressor stations release toxic hydrocarbons like benzene, toluene, xylenes, and ethylbenzene (BTEX) into surrounding communities. At high levels, exposure to BTEX vapors may cause irreversible damage. That, paired with chemicals used in the initial drilling process, make it very harmful to live in the vicinity of a drilling operation, Colborn says. Her study in the International Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment found that 36 percent of the identifiable chemicals used are volatile, meaning they become airborne. Among those, 93 percent have been shown to harm the eyes, skin, sensory organs, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, or liver.

5. Fracking releases uranium. That’s right, the radioactive stuff. The 2005 Energy Act included what is known as the Halliburton Loophole, which exempts the natural gas drilling industry from many safeguards, such as the Clean Water Act, intended to protect citizens from industrial corporate activities that pollute. While the chemical cocktail used in fracking has been of much concern, new research is pointing to another fact: Contaminants and dangerous substances trapped deep underground become mobilized when fracking creates mini-earthquake-like explosions underground. A 2010 study out of the University of Buffalo found that natural gas drilling using the fracking method could potentially contaminate water supplies with uranium.

Fracking affects everyone. A natural gas survey released in December 2010 found that regardless of political leanings, most people are concerned about fracking. Even if you don’t live atop a major shale deposit, the pollution generated in fracking could affect you. Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities and the GSPH Environmental Health Risk Assessment Certificate Program at the University of Pittsburgh, notes that as more wells are installed in various states, there’s more toxic wastewater to deal with. Wastewater from fracking operations is often sent to municipal treatment plants that are not properly equipped to handle contamination by more than 600 chemicals, and possibly radioactive material. This wastewater is often shipped to locations where fracking isn’t even taking place, threatening rivers and drinking water supplies in those towns.

In short, the best defence against the negative impacts of fracking is to have NO FRACKING AT ALL.


Example submission 7;

We implore the Council of Geelong to remove all investment into fossil fuels and redirect it into renewable energy. Especially we want to make our opposition known to fracking. Please make the City of Greater Geelong a frackfree area.
Coal should be left in the ground undisturbed. Fracking will ruin fertile soil suitable for agriculture and risks contaminating groundwater, the two things we need most in the future.


Example submission 8;

I am writing on behalf of my sister and myself, who are co-owners of a property in Highton, and wish to register our strong opposition to any fracking being approved in the Geelong area.

The issue was brought to my attention by my sister who lives in the region, and when she told me about the proposal, I must say I thought it was a bad joke!

The environmental dangers along with the devastation caused to prime farmland by fracking are already well known from the well-documented experiences of many people in Queensland. I believe the idea that fracking could possibly be extended to the beautiful geelong region is totally outrageous.

Respected TV programs like ‘Four Corners’ have clearly explained all the negatives to this form of exploration – and how widespread those negative consequences can be (as opposed to the very narrow band of stakeholders who benefit from such resource exploitation, with wilful disregard to the environment and the local communities where they operate), so I won’t attempt to re-state those arguments here, but again, reinforce our strongest opposition to any fracking proposal for Geelong. I would also suggest that those with leadership roles in the community should be backing plans for renewable energy at every possible opportunity (e.g. wind / wave and solar, which we have here in abundance!), thus negating the need for our on-going dependence for so called ‘traditional’ energy solutions. We must look to achieve a sustainable energy future.


Example submission 9;

I am a resident of Waurn Ponds with grave doubts about the safety of fracking in light of the significant health issues which have been experience by those where fracking is well established overseas. As a former Science teacher, I have reviewed relevant information with interest and a great deal of concern.

My main concerns are:

• The toxic chemicals used in each fracking operation become airborne. This has been seen to affect children initially and then
adults. The first sign of young children being affected is that they start bleeding from their ears and their nose. Some have also been reported as bleeding from their anus.

• Evaporation ponds often leak wastewater back into the ground, thereby contaminating the aquifer from above. This is a very serious health and environmental issue. What will we tell our children if we decimate their future water supplies and health, as a result of ill-informed decision making now?

• The casings of the well do not always provide a good seal between the pipe and the terrain. This causes leaks of methane and other elements to enter the environment or the water aquifer – therefore poisoning what they come into contact with.

• Flames can be lit from the methane in domestic taps if a frack well seal fails and water contamination occurs.

To err on the side of caution and not introduce fracking to the Geelong community would put residents health and safety first which is where it always should be.

If there is any risk to community surely prevention is better than cure.
I hereby submit my very strong objection to fracking in Geelong.


Example submission 10;

A group of coal-seam gas protesters recently “democratically” declared the areas of Moriac, Mt Moriac and Paraparap to be “frack free”. Of the 70-80 people assembled at the ‘declaration’ event, many were from other areas, including Melbourne. Yet the organisers, like colonists, felt at liberty to stake their claim over the territory. To support their belief, they presented petitions, and spoke earnestly about the evils of gas – and indeed all fossil fuels – and the need for Victoria and the world to shift to renewable energy. This is a pattern which has played out in many small-town locations in NSW and Victoria. The same can not be said for WA, Queensland, NT, and SA, where natural gas has been safely extracted for up to 20 years.

At Moriac, the whole ‘democratic’ process unfolded without any examination of the facts about natural gas extraction. Unless they were already well educated, the people who attended left the meeting ignorant to the most telling facts about natural gas. If they were already educated, they left knowing nothing more than when they arrived.

The meeting and petitions presented had as much interest in facts and science as the Lock The Gate Queensland petition which called for the closure of the CSG industry because it had supposedly caused ‘black rain’ in the Darling Downs and a host of health problems for the people in the area. Did the people who signed that petition know what they were signing? Did the organisers contact all the signatories to apologise, when a costly Queensland Health investigation came to the conclusion that the so-called ‘black rain’ was naturally occurring lerps, and had nothing at all to do with the nearby gas wells?

Will Frack Free Geraldton and the Conservation Council apologise for their deliberately misleading advertisement in the Geraldton Guardian newspaper – the one which claimed CSG turns water into a “dangerous chemical cocktail”? Will they apologise for the deceptive ‘facts’ that US research had found 6 per cent of fracking wells leak into groundwater in their first year; and that once water is contaminated, it will be contaminated forever. Each of these claims was used in advertising which WA Newspapers decided was misleading and deceptive. The Sydney Morning Herald (26 September 2014) published details of these findings and other anti-gas propaganda in an article headed “Lies, damned lies and social media”. Some of these unfounded claims were aired at the Moriac meeting.

Protest groups claim blanket community support, but in the activist-targeted area of Narrabri, in Northern NSW, the ‘silent majority’ supports responsible gas drilling
(The Courier, 12 Sept. 2014).

As NSW Minister Anthony Roberts said recently: “There has been an awful lot of rubbish thrown at this industry. I would be happy to have a gas well on my property.” Mr Roberts drank water which NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham claimed was CSG poisoned and riddled with radioactive heavy metals. Mr Roberts reported no ill effects.

Key facts about natural gas extraction:
• Natural gas has been drilled since 1947, first in the USA, then Canada, Europe and Australia, without environmental calamity.
• Hydraulic fracturing has been used in a total of 2.5 million wells worldwide without a single case of groundwater contamination. This fact has been confirmed by the US EPA.
• In Australia, gas extraction activities have been studied by health, environmental and regulatory bodies in Queensland, NSW and WA, as well as Federally. Study is underway in Victoria. No State in Australia, or overseas, has banned natural gas drilling.
• Natural gas drilling can and does co-exist with agriculture – most notably in Queensland and in Camden in NSW (on the southern outskirts of Sydney).
• Farmers do benefit from hosting natural gas wells. More than 5000 land owners have entered into commercial agreements with gas drillers in Queensland alone.
• Regional centres benefit from gas resource development, in local employment, service delivery businesses and direct spending by companies and workers
• The gas industry brings substantial economic benefits for land holders, communities and the nation, without compromising other industries, including tourism. Queensland expects to be the country’s highest growth State in 2015, on the back of the gas industry.
• More than 40,000 people are employed in the gas industry in Queensland alone.
• Billions will be paid nationwide in taxes and royalties in 2015 and beyond.

At a time when manufacturing is contracting and unemployment growing, there is a big opportunity for regional Victoria to create jobs and generate additional income for land and business owners – all from responsibly managed, Government regulated resources. That is what has happened in a number of States in the US and Canada, and in Queensland — and there is good reason to believe it can happen in Victoria, to the benefit of consumers, farmers and local businesses – with environmental benefits and without harm to water supplies or agriculture. History and science show that with sensible, regulated development, the economic power of gas can be harnessed, to the benefit of all.


» The above text is a part of the City of Greater Geelong Council meeting agenda document which is found here: www.geelongaustralia.com.au/common/Public/Documents/8cbc87d1d7fc42e-Council%20Agenda%20-%2014%20October%202014.pdf

» www.geelongaustralia.com.au/council/meetings



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