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Issue #1613      October 2, 2013

AGL attempts to buy community support

As federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has announced his government intends to “break down barriers” to coal seam gas developments in NSW, it is illuminating to see the manipulations and manoeuvres of one coal seam gas operator, AGL, in the NSW Hunter Valley. The following coverage is from the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, one of many community organisations fighting against the environmentally disastrous, profit seeking CSG industry around Australia.

  • AGL tried to sponsor the Singleton Outstanding Business Awards, but its sponsorship was rightly rejected by the Chamber of Commerce.
  • AGL tried to sponsor the hugely attended Broke Village Fair, but AGL was roundly rejected by the community and AGL’s cheque returned to them.
  • AGL had somehow bought naming rights for the 2013 Singleton Show last month and it is now, unfortunately, called the “AGL Singleton Show”. A gross embarrassment for the Singleton community.
  • AGL Energy is now offering local primary schools cash donations in its efforts to buy community support ... Kirkton Primary and Broke Primary we know of, both in the Hunter Valley, both in the CSG exclusion zones.

Schools, when examining the appropriateness of a commercial arrangement with an organisation, must consider:

  • The type of products or services the organisation markets;
  • The marketing methods the organisation employs;
  • The impact its products and processing have on issues such as the environment;
  • Its public image as an employer, acceptability to the community and general reputation as a business.

How can AGL be fall within these guidelines when:

  • AGL is one of our biggest polluters.
  • This year our very own Singleton Council rejected AGL’s coal seam gas activities in the Singleton Local Government area citing “evidence that (environmental) impact could be significant and irreversible” and “there appears to be serious risk of significant environmental impacts.”
  • AGL was expelled, the first ever member to be so, from its membership of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association by virtue of its activities contrary to the interests of our sustainable wine growing industry.
  • AGL during its exploration for coal seam gas in the Hunter dumped over 110,000 litres of salty, contaminated water onto pasture, in breach of their lease conditions, attracting a remediation order from the government.
  • AGL was issued with a “formal warning” by the state government following a blowout of a methane well near Campbelltown caused by incorrect operation of the well.
  • AGL “failed to comply with the licence conditions in both of its Petroleum Exploration Licences affecting the Hunter Valley Wine Country” – government Audit.
  • AGL gave evidence before the Senate Enquiry that it would not force entry onto any property if the owner said “no”, but then fought tooth and nail in court against the residents of Gloucester forcing coal seam methane production wells on that community.
  • AGL failed to comply with its EPA Licence at its massive Camden gas works for a continuous period of three years. AGL “deeply regretted breaching its licence conditions.”
  • This year AGL was fined for breaching its air pollution emission limits.
  • AGL’s coal seam exploration in the winegrowing areas of the Hunter could risk a 200-year-old agricultural industry for a couple of decades of fossil fuel extraction which could leave the farmland devastated and the underground water polluted.

So far as the Singleton Show is concerned, representations have also been made to each Singleton Councillor seeking that Council allocate more money to the show next year so that the organising committee won’t sell it off to AGL again. Councillor Val Scott was the one respondent saying “I also believe that it would be more desirable to have the show simply titled ‘Singleton Show’ as it always once was.” The Singleton Show belongs to the people of Singleton, not AGL.

Sponsoring local events is what these type of companies do to try and buy acceptance in local communities. An interesting movie, Promised Land with Matt Damon, is worth watching [see film review Guardian #1592, May 8]. It mirrors exactly what AGL is attempting to do to the people of Singleton, including taking over the Show. You can obtain the movie through iTunes or Amazon.

It is very hard to raise money to stage events and run schools these days, but accepting a sponsorship which gives naming rights to a company, or which can advertise through schools, with this environmental history is plain wrong. It demeans the receiver.

The sooner that the NSW O’Farrell government passes the exclusion zone laws the closer we will be to ridding our area of AGL. We are a step closer with Minister Stoner saying, “As it stands the critical industry clusters (Viticulture and thoroughbred breeding) exclude coal seam gas extraction. They would exclude any mining activity where that mining activity would disrupt the operation of those critical industries.”

www.huntervalleyprotectionalliance.com

Next article – Union outraged by decision to sack 1,100 local Telstra staff

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