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#962144 - 17/02/2011 11:13 Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm
Greg Sorenson Offline
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I like to think that i'm a rational thinker, highly sceptical, i always question everything. Climate change, religion, government policies no matter what side of the fence is in power, movies and documentaries. I like to make up my own mind after doing my own research. And i gotta say, this issue may actually unite the tree hugging lefties and the normally conservative farmers in a common cause against what might become Australia's worst environmental and community disaster in history. On face value this seems an over exaggeration, but after doing some digging around to about 3am last night, the more i read, the more i've become convinced that there may be some dark clouds on the horizon.

Yesterday i stumbled upon a US doco that highlights the impact of Hydraulic Fracturing drilling (fraccing or fracking) to extract Natural Gas from coal seams / shale. The basic nuts and bolts of it is that a huge amount of water, fine sand and chemicals are pumped down towards the seams under enormous pressure, which fractures the rock beneath to unlock the gas trapped within. I was skeptical about the level of risk that this doco presented, so i decided to look into it myself, in relation to Australia's push to become a gas super power.

The main issues with this process is as follows:
1/ the quantity of water used to pumped down the wells is enormous, and may create a supply issue for farmers who use bores to feed cattle, and go about their daily lives in the home. Australia as a geological landmass contains aquifers that are a finite resource, that could be at the mercy of an unregulated system. We are talking something in the order over a million litres per dig, yikes. Have a few dozen wells pop up in a district and you might have cause for concern.

2/ Contamination of water supplies is a biggy as it has became apparent in the US. The chemicals used to unlocked the gas are just plain scary. Some of the chemicals such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide, are known to be dangerous to human and animal consumption. Benzene in particular just in small quantities has the potential to contaminate millions of litres of water, esp in artesian aquifers. In Nov last year near a well west of Mackay at the Moranbah gas project, tests detected the dangerous chemicals present in at least 3 wells. The issue is that under current legislation the oil and gas companies are only obligated to give the names of the chemicals, not the breakdown of the ingredients because they are proprietary. So even though the QLD / NSW governments have signed off on new projects all over the place, they actually have no real scientific evidence as the effects and the nature of these chemicals. So i guess it's like someone giving you a recipe to cook a cake, that has no ingredients, yet you're expected to come up with a cake at the end.

3/ Methane gas leakage is a potentially dangerous side affect of when gas is released within the surrounding areas. Farmers who have bores nearby may find that their water might actually be highly flammable. I didn't believe this at first, until i saw it on "Gasland", and then also on Aust 60 minutes from last year. I'll post the link for you to have a look below. So there is a real risk that homes and properties could become extremely dangerous places to even light up a ciggy, or have a bbq. That aside, the digging sites themselves, which become stationary gas wells, may not be checked regularly enough to ensure that methane isn't escaping. With the huge amount of licences that have been granted of late, whole areas may become enveloped in a cloud of methane. I believe that the NSW state government has given the green light to explore for gas in St Peters and my understanding that this is a built up area? Talk about putting people at risk, esp when they weren't consulted.

4/ Government revenue raising via the royalties from this resource makes it hardly conceivable that any government will pull the rug from under a big injection of funds to their coffers. Seems like a conflict of interest on face value. It will be interesting to see if governmental bodies set up to investigate claims of environmental, agricultural and community impacts, will be assessed without biased considering what's at stake. $35 billion is the most recent sign off for gas projects in QLD alone, doesn't take a genius to work out the issue here.

5/ Land access - if you are a farmer, and live above a seam-coal area in QLD, you have no legal right to stop a gas and oil company from walking on your property and setting up a well. You have no say whatsoever. I really feel for farmers who have been producing work class livestock, work class crops, for many generations, only to be told that the piece of paper that they thought represented ownership means nothing. State legislation brought in last year makes it illegal for property owners to stop this from taking place. You'll see a bit of this in the 60mins report below. The potential outcome is that not only may your live stock become contaminated, you may be forced off the land due to the nature of health implications of living there. I'm not a farmer, and even i can see how this would upset me if i was in their shoes. Not to mention food bowl districts for the entire nation being risk.

Okay, so this rant may sound like i've already made up my mind, and you're right. I've only scratched the surface and already i'm mortified. I hope as i read more into the process and the potential impacts i can sharpen my viewpoint. Perhaps you have a different opinion, or you may know somebody that has similar concerns? Do you know someone who lives in these areas? Will the jobs created and revenue raised be enough to put these concerns aside? Are there other safer ways to extract gas?

That's what a public forum is for, so that everyone can have their say. Love to hear everyone's thoughts on this. Anyway, here's the 60mins report from last year, following the US release of "Gasland".
http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=1052462

This is the guidelines for accessing farmer's properties...... sounds like political powder puff to me. http://www.dme.qld.gov.au/zone_files/land_tenure_pdf/land_access_code_nov2010.pdf

Screenings of "Gasland" this year if you want to go and see it.
http://www.gasland.com.au/screenings/
and it's preview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYEBwbB6xuA&feature=player_embedded
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#962169 - 17/02/2011 12:24 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
ant Offline
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You should turn this into an article, Greg, and start hawking it to the papers. It's a big issue that is sleeping, because the people affected are not numerous, being rural. But the knock-on effects are, as you've shown, enormous and once the damage is done, there is zilch that can be done to fix it.

The rights that business has to hunt for minerals/substances on others peoples' land are poorly understood. They have total rights to do pretty much as they please. They're re-activating an old gold/copper mine in Majors Creek at the moment. The damage this is going to cause to all people downstream is horrific, and how their rights can over-rule the rights of so many others is scary. This gas business is many times larger in scale.

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#962176 - 17/02/2011 12:44 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ant]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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yer that's what i'm worried about Ant, the sheer size and scale of the new found gold rush mentality. No questions asked yet it will be the farmers, and potentially a greater proportion of the wider community that will have to bear the brunt if the artesian basin becomes contaminated. Could you imagine if major catchment areas for the big cities
become too dangerous for human consumption?

Some papers and media outlets are starting to wake up to it, with some column pieces starting to surface in recent months from what i discovered online. I might trundle down to the showing of Gasland on the 24th of Feb at Canberra's CSIRO just to gauge people's reaction, and perhaps there will people there to answer my questions. I have plenty.

Watch this space regardless if you are a greenie or a conservative.......
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#962178 - 17/02/2011 12:46 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ant]
.... Offline
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Greg, I've been looking into it as well - and it appears that everything you have stated above is pretty much on the mark. This 'technology' should never be allowed to happen...some of those chemicals that are used have the potential (more than potential - they WILL) pollute our precious aquifers for huge lengths of time.

We live in a beautiful country yet seem happy to totally screw it over. We are showing Galslands here in Bellingen - everyone should see this film.

I wonder at times if we need something like an Egyptian revolution to wake up the pollies and stop them putting the $$$ above everything else...There is an expression along the lines that it will only be once we have messed up our earth that we will realise that we cannot eat money.

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#962225 - 17/02/2011 14:52 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ....]
SBT Offline
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Lord knows I'm no greenie but even I can see the potential damage that this process will bring to farms, families and our future. I know people who will be directly impacted if this process is allowed to continue and I am not happy with what they are doing. Maybe it's time to start a Stand Up campaign or something.
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#962236 - 17/02/2011 15:23 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: SBT]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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Could you do us a favour SBT and find out if they have been given clear information outlining how this will affect them? I think from what i'm hearing
is that public consultation is pretty much non-existent, and local authorities such as councillors are just towing the line. Will be good to know on the
front line how people are being treated.

Another factor that i can see is that many of the people employed to drill these wells are flown into these areas, then flown back out again to where ever they
came from. I guess it's a similar story in other mining operations. There would be no empathy for people you don't know.

From what i can tell, as the Gasland movie makes it's journey across the land in the next 2-3 months, the word will start to spread, i hope anyway.
Like i said, i've added a link to screenings that are coming up, so might be well worth people at the very least have a look at a worst case scenerio,
and hope that it doesn't come to that such as seen in the US. I agree, standing up now may save us all from a potential disaster.
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#962264 - 17/02/2011 16:50 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
ant Offline
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Registered: 05/10/2002
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Loc: Overlooking ACT at 848m
Publicity is the key. Local councils are very much fragmented and have limited to no powers when it comes to situations like this. In fact, it's interesting how often local councils have no powers over what happens in their areas. The recently-built Defence HQ JOC between Queanbeyan and Bungendore, for instance. It's as though it wasn't there, as far as Palerang is concerned. They can't require the facility to do anything, they don't pay rates... and from memory, Palerang's powers to control the Major's Creek mine are also miniscule. Yet councils would be the main ones to have the most interest in these matters, being answerable to the residents.

there's already an upswelling of awareness of what's happening with mines in the Hunter. This fracking issue is similar but much bigger and much more serious to many more people.

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#962292 - 17/02/2011 17:45 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ant]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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I think you're right about that ant, and it's probably deliberately so. In the 60 minutes video the residents in the Tara district only have town mayor
to deal with. No company executives, no politicians, no-one at all who might be able to heed the public concerns. I might take a look into the Major's
Creek case for my own interest.
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#962306 - 17/02/2011 18:06 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
Arnost Offline
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Whilst I completely sympathise with the anti-fracking sentiment, and personally would not like to see it used anywhere near me, the fact remains that it has been used for 60 years in something like one million wells. Whilst there are “some” accidents where pollution spills etc cause contamination, there is no evidence that it is riskier than other forms of mining, and coal / gas / petrochemical extraction.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that multi-walled concreted well shafts will crack. Which then is an inherent danger / potential cost that has to be offset against any benefits. And I suggest that this is the argument that should be made rather than an emotional “ban all fracking” response. [And is one that I will happily use in my NIMBY response if need be] smile


The Oil Drum is a sensational resource to read on matters related to the petro-chemical industry and a quick look finds that “fracking” has been discussed. A cursory glance through the contents of the two posts below show a good discussion of the pros and cons. There even is a link to the industry PR response to the Gasland movie that I’ve linked to separately, (and a response that I've just found to it - edited).

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6346
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6635
http://www.energyindepth.org/2010/06/debunking-gasland/
http://1trickpony.cachefly.net/gas/pdf/Affirming_Gasland_Sept_2010.pdf

Again – I don’t have a horse in this race… but I suggest that as the “fracking” will generally take place well below any aquifers and the process allows a lot of the fluids used to be recovered, the “scare” may be disproportionate to the truth… More research required.


Edited by Arnost (17/02/2011 18:15)
Edit Reason: added link
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#962443 - 17/02/2011 23:47 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Arnost]
ozone doug Offline
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Intresting topic guys . I live here in Roma right on the main hwy and the number of roadtrains that pass and stop outside my house 2 or 3 tanks on them with all the chemicals that Greg was talking about plus explosives is mind blowing ,and a lot of farmers are really worried about these chemicals in bores .I worry about a serious accident involving this stuff. I used to work in the tyre industry and know what toluene used to do to my hands dry and split .I was reading a warning sheet once and it noted that a person was dared to swollow a tea spoon of this stuff in the US and was dead 20 mins later . bad dare . Doug
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#962524 - 18/02/2011 09:13 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
ant Offline
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Originally Posted By: Greg Sorenson
I might take a look into the Major's Creek case for my own interest.


Jackie French, who does a lot of writing (about chooks and things, does poems) is one of the affected residents and is being quite effective at awareness-raising. Trouble is, with the powers that exist for miners, they can make all the fuss they like and it won't do a thing. We have governments, but for some reason mining is treated as being above that.

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#962541 - 18/02/2011 10:26 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ant]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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Reading through the first oil drum article it seems there are some alarming facts that even the API ( American Petroleum Institute ) allude to. One being that they recover 30-70% of the liquid and the rest either stays down there or seeps to the surface via the drill bore in time, because they say it's the "weakest" point. The issues for the farmers and landowners in the US from what i've read and watched is that pre-existing water bores are getting contaminated with these dangerous chemicals and methane. This contradicts the fact that drinking bore water is a shallow depth comparatively to the fluid injection depth and therefore isn't affected according to the API. Obviously the control mechanism isn't guaranteed. I mean are the API going to say otherwise? It's their business to spin a positive slant on their operations. The notion that 60 years without an incident is clearly out of step with the reality with what people are seeing on their properties.

From what some landowners are already seeing here in Australia, the method of extraction can't be rubber stamped as safe. What worries me is that the Bligh government has signed up to huge projects that when in full operation could see as many as 30,000 wells dotted all over the country side of QLD, maybe even more. How on earth are they meant to quality check every well, and even if a fault is found and the EPA here clamps down with a fine, it isn't going to bring back the land owner's bore water to it's prior state, nor will it hurt the mining company in terms of the bottom dollar. These companies are huge. It will be chump change in the end together with an injunction at every step of the legal process as they try and wear down the poor farmer to a payout and a non-disclosure agreement.

The other issue that i see in the US EPA report relates to the terms of reference of their study. Under the current legislation the process is exempt from just about every law under the sun that protects the environment and water supplies, which includes the drinking water act itself, courtesy non-other than Halliburton ex CEO Dick Cheney. What i mean by that is that because the chemicals are proprietary, they can't be forced to give up their products secrets incase the competition will steel the formulas, therefore they are exempt. A nice little loop hole. The EPA are hog tied and therefore don't have the scientific authority to come to a conclusion that is thorough. The very fact that Cheney made it illegal for anyone to garner information relating to the ingredients to some of these chemicals is scandalous in the first place considering what's at stake. Methane is a naturally occurring gas, no one has an issue with that. But when people have been in a place for years with no issues with drinking water, then a well is built nearby and suddenly their kitchen tap becomes a blow torch - it doesn't take a genius to work out you only have to put 2 and 2 together. The argument that "it's a naturally occurring gas therefore we didn't do it" is such a crock.

The Energy Depth website that has the "Debunking GasLand" write up has all the hallmarks of an industry that is trying to cover it's tracks. The website itself only represents the companies, not the wider community. Even if there are inaccuracies in the film Gasland like any other emotive film, there has to be an element of truth in it, otherwise he (Fox) wouldn't have encountered to so many people willing to show him their issues, with no hope of compensation (which is another law that is fraccing is exempt from). Fox himself threw away $100,000 free buckeroos for something that would have cost him nothing to provide. Just access to the company.

I agree that there all mining has it's implications. You can't avoid that. But it needs to be minimised, and unfortunately, from where i sit, this process has all the hallmarks of operators from taking shortcuts as loopholes are found in regulations and lack of quality control. The unfortunate landowners will be on the front line of a losing battle. If people start to see issues here on a broader scale as operations ramp up, it will be hard for the people affected to not be emotional about it.
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#962609 - 18/02/2011 13:02 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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#963190 - 19/02/2011 18:02 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
Loopy Radar Offline
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Halliburton bought an oil cleanup company 3 weeks before the gulf disaster. Even though there were 12 tried and tested organic products tested at thousands of spill sites, Halliburton went ahead using a dangerous chemical dispersant which may have more long term complications than the spill itself.
It is really important to realize that the news media and politics is ALL spin. None of it reflects the reality on the ground. And I will continue to press on what I believe is the most important, which is understanding how political spin distorts reality.
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#963196 - 19/02/2011 18:19 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Loopy Radar]
Loopy Radar Offline
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#963208 - 19/02/2011 18:54 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Loopy Radar]
Loopy Radar Offline
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Oh well. we can simply pass the buck onto How Many Generations? who at least cab be reassured of endless employment cleaning up our mess. Hardly anyone ones heard about the 23 creeks and rivers damaged in NSW alone by long haul coal seam mining, but I suppose that you would get a scratch on the scone if the average Joe Blow was asked what long haul mining is. And I only know how many are damaged in NSW coz I happened to switch on radio national at the right time. I and just about nobody knows how many 'mining time bombs' litter the planet. And do you think that the 3rd world have any environmental protection at all yet. As is our 1st world 'protection' is still scratching the surface, and the protection weighs heavily to business as usual.

Link


Edited by bigwilly (20/02/2011 09:24)
Edit Reason: Please use links to avoid incredibly wide pages
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#963679 - 20/02/2011 22:46 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Loopy Radar]
ant Offline
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Here we go. Four Corners tomorrow (Monday night) should be of GREAT interest.
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2011/s3141787.htm

About the "Gas Rush". Effects on farmers having their land taken over by these clowns drilling everywhere, lowering water levels in the bores, gas leaks, damage to the water in the wells from the chemicals they use.

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#963750 - 21/02/2011 07:35 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: ant]
Helen Offline
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Hey Greg,

I've posted the link to this thread on Adelaide Now's Facebook page, as well as my own. I really think that the media needs to make a huge song and dance about this. It's yet another money grab by big companies wanting to rape our land without thought for the environmental consequences.

I'm not a fan of Bob Brown, but if he's not aware of this situation, then he really needs to be, as do the other independents in parliament. frown
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#963784 - 21/02/2011 09:54 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Greg Sorenson]
Andy Double U Offline
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Originally Posted By: Greg Sorenson

2/ Contamination of water supplies is a biggy as it has became apparent in the US. The chemicals used to unlocked the gas are just plain scary. Some of the chemicals such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide, are known to be dangerous to human and animal consumption. Benzene in particular just in small quantities has the potential to contaminate millions of litres of water, esp in artesian aquifers.


The majority of chemicals listed are a breakdown of diesel as you can see below.
Courtesy: Earthworks - Hydraulic Fracturing 101


I really think some perspective needs to be maintained in all of this. All versions of resource recovery will have some sort of negative impact on the environment and the land. The open cut coal mine that was in place out at Willowbank in SE Qld cut through the water table which saw many bores on properties around the mine run dry. Anyone who has watched operators dropping a bore will see the amount of grease and oil that can find its way down a hole as well, is that not ground water contamination? What about the recent Brisbane floods that saw many, many petroleum/diesel tanks spill their contents into the flood waters?

Look, I can understand that this a very emotional subject for many, and I can say that I would be very non-plussed to see methane gas bubbling from my bore but at the end of the day these kinds of operations are brought on by society's need for energy. I do have reservations about the method and the lack of control they have over cracks permeating into areas that do have significant knock on effects. At the end of the day though, despite the wealth of knowledge we have about the ground, we understand enough about it to definitively make decisions as to how operations can be carried out. I think what it comes back to is actively encouraging, seeking and developing better methods, better technologies to carry out resource recovery work leaving as little damage as possible to the ecosystems that surround it. Now you can't do this by making everyone sit on their hands and wait till someone has a genius moment and you sure as heck can't wait around for the governments of the world to fix it either!

Apparently there are alternative fracturing fluids available that are more environmentally friendly that they use in offshore oil and gas exploration, which brings to mind another question. If fracking on the land is so prohibitively bad, why haven't people come to the same conclusion for fracking operations out at sea? It's probably because these operations are performed out of sight and out of mind that they are more acceptable to the public psyche. Who cares about a bit of methane and oil seeping from the seabed? Actually, BP probably does, but that was only because of a useless US bureaucracy / government / contractors butt covering for their own inadequacies and praying on a public perception of mistrust for big multinationals. Similar thing happened to the north of Australia and we heard sweet bugger all about it, must've been because the $$$ weren't going to BP?

Originally Posted By: Greg Sorenson
4/ Government revenue raising via the royalties from this resource makes it hardly conceivable that any government will pull the rug from under a big injection of funds to their coffers. Seems like a conflict of interest on face value.


I certainly agree with you on this. Our governments are so compromised it isn't funny, especially the Queensland government and the fact they have so completely mismanaged and botched our state finances to the tune where they are so heavily reliant on resource royalties. The lack of inspection and supervision is hardly surprising, it's easier to watch the satellites for signs of land clearing than what it is to go out and monitor the activities that contribute to your revenue. For what it is worth, it is easier to convince a public that you are doing your job by silencing land clearing dozers than reporting on the reduction of benzene in water on a parts per million basis. We've got to wake up to ourselves, we need to remove the expectation that governments are going to look after us from the cradle to the grave. We feel duped when a newly reelected government announces asset sales that it didn't mention in the campaign, yet we don't vote them out for their history of incompetence, cover ups and bungling...

Aghghhg, we get what we deserve frown

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#963798 - 21/02/2011 10:40 Re: Fraccing or Fracking - Natural Gas and your farm [Re: Andy Double U]
Greg Sorenson Offline
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Some great points and info on this thread. It really helps build a better understanding of the situation. If in the end it means that a better approach to extracting coal-seam gas can be sought, then everyone is a winner imo.

I look forward to watching the four corners episode tonight.
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