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Issue #1661      October 22, 2014

Push for fracking fires up community

As the Earth’s climate continues to demonstrate its volatility more frequently and in more extreme ways, community action around the outdated fossil fuel industry is gathering strength and making its way into the mainstream of thinking.

One sector of the fossil fuel industry that is coming under increased public scrutiny is fracking for unconventional gas. In the eastern states of Australia they frack predominantly for coal seam gas while in Western Australia it is shale gas which is being sought after by the fracking interests.

On October 11 No Fracking Way organised a protest in Perth as part of a Global Frackdown, outside the offices of Mitsubishi Australia. Mitsibishi is responsible for supplying machinery to frack for unconventional gas from the Canning Basin in the south eastern Kimberley where Buru Energy has exploration permits and pending production licences for tight wet gas (shale) and conventional oil.

No Fracking Way, some churches and the Conservation Council of Western Australia have been strident in their opposition to fracking. The CCWA as part of its campaign to protect the environment knew they were having an impact on the proponents of fracking when the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) published a full page ad in the West Australian newspaper on the morning of the rally with the headline, “A warning to all Western Australians on “misleading and deceptive” anti-gas advertising”

No Fracking Way spokesperson Farida Iqbal kicked off the rally to affirm community opposition was growing against fracking and the risks which this posed to groundwater and air quality, by noting that the Greenough and Coorow Shires had both voted to be frack free zones.

Greens Upper House member and spokesperson on mining Robin Chapple addressed the rally saying the Greens oppose fracking unconditionally because of the risks it posed to the environment and that there is no environmental oversight of the exploration phase of fracking.

However, even these exploratory wells puncture local aquifers and have led to at least one company Buru Energy, breaching their environmental licence last February, according to Mr Chapple. What is more alarming is that the WA government had dismissed these concerns, saying it was “a small proof of concept project unlikely to have any significant impact on the environment.”

There was also a lack of transparency with regards to the conditions of the licence permits as they were subject to commercial confidence and to reveal exact details of the incidents would breach these arrangements.

Sam Wainwright, a councillor with the Fremantle City Council in speaking to the ad in the West Australian that morning said it was ironic that APPEA had claimed in the ad that “natural gas” (as opposed to the process of fracking for unconventional gas such as shale or tight gas) was, “safe, clean and reliable.” In fact, said Wainwright, “Methane gas was 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than emissions from coal.”

It is through renewable energy that we can halt runaway climate change said Wainwright, and he supported proposals for renewable energy such as a community-run wind farm on Fremantle Port Authority land.

No Fracking Way spokesperson Claire McKinnon also said that there had to be strong and effective protection of our water reserves for people, agriculture and food. These water reserves were under threat, not only in the midwest around Geraldton, but also in the Gascoyne with the Carnarvon food bowl and in the Kimberley with its large pastoral and food growing areas.

The demonstrators then marched with their many colourful placards and banners around the Perth CBD where they took the message to receptive lunchtime shoppers.

The Communist Party of Australia reaffirms its support for renewable energy and for communities to increase political pressure to promote and develop renewable energy whilst also looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce consumption.

Next article – Action to save women’s services

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