Roundtable to discuss gas concerns

A ROUNDTABLE discussion between opponents of AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project, State government officials and the Land and Water commissioner Jock Laurie will take place on Friday.

Groundswell Gloucester said the roundtable was a result of several meetings with senior government officials in Sydney in recent months and weeks, including discussions with new Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts in Sydney last week.

The discussions will include representatives from the Office of Coal Seam Gas (OCSG) and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

The group says health issues highlighted with several government departments continue to be overlooked while AGL has provided no alternatives to its Tiedman’s irrigation trial for how it will dispose of the large amounts of sodium generated through its CSG activities.

“AGL’s application to frack contains no plans to monitor emissions at family homes, some only 600m from gas wells,” Groundswell spokeswoman Julie Lyford said.

“We have asked consistently through the Department of Health, the Minister for Health and local area health for information regarding CSG exposure during flaring and other operations and are continually flicked from one department to another with no answers. 

“Once again it appears to be up to the community to do the research.”

AGL said, contrary to the Groundswell claims, it intended to monitor two gas wells during its Waukivory pilot program to assess the impact on nearby residents.

“The supplementary REF (Review of Environmental Factors) outlines that AGL proposes to monitor two gas monitoring wells during the Waukivory pilot, which are located south of the pilot,” a spokeswoman said.

“AGL will carry out the Waukivory pilot in accordance with best practice environmental health and safety standards, including a detailed environmental management plan.

“During the pilot, a temporary, enclosed flare will be used to burn the produced natural gas. The flare will be over half a kilometre from the nearest house.  

“An air quality impact assessment was under-taken for the pilot, assessing the project against strict legislative standards and considered air emissions from the pilot and potential impact on the nearest houses.  

“Taking into account the worst case scenario, the assessment found that emissions from the pilot would be minimal, and potential air quality impacts would be negligible.  The assessment also found that potential emission concentrations at the closest houses would not even approach the EPA air quality criteria.

Groundswell says it would like to know why AGL was only required to submit an REF for its latest fracking plans. 

“Why, when AGL lodged their REF, didn’t the OCSG direct AGL to conduct a transparent EIS (Environmental Impact Statement)?” Mrs Lyford said. 

“A letter was sent to the NSW Department of Trade and Investment on November 28 regarding this issue. After phone calls and requests for this matter to be addressed there has been no response.

“A full EIS should be required because there are existing CSG wells within 3km of the fracking site.  One of these gas wells, proven to be productive, has been capped and abandoned since the letter was received by the OCSG.”  

AGL said under current State government legislation there was no requirement for an EIS because the fracking activity was characterised as petroleum exploration.

“Two wells have recently been plugged and abandoned in the Gloucester area as part of AGL’s ongoing works program, and due to the 

availability of a workover rig in the area,” the spokeswoman said. 

“Both wells were outside of the stage one Gloucester Gas Project area and AGL’s focus is on its Waukivory pilot.”

But AGL had few answers for Groundswell on its long term ability to dispose of sodium generated by its operations in the valley.

AGL said the Tiedmans irrigation trial set up early last year had proved promising, but could not provide any additional solutions for the long term disposal of salt.

“The first crops of fodder that were harvested from the Tiedmans irrigation trial saw small water volumes (of blended water) used - 80 per cent 

rainfall against 20 per cent blended water,” the spokeswoman said. 

“AGL Energy has also analysed the nutrient and mineral quality of the crops harvested, with our first summary report publicly available on our website.”

It said none of the fodder produced in the trial had shown signs of contamination as suggested by Groundswell.

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