JOHN Fenton has spent 10 years trying to get recognition that there is a serious problem in his home town of Pavillion, Wyoming.
Pavillion is surrounded by more than 200 coal seam gas wells and Mr Fenton spoke passionately about what he calls the “industrialisation” of his home. He said fracking practices used by coal seam gas companies in the valley have left the water poisoned and undrinkable.
About 70 people were on hand at Gloucester Bowling Club last Friday to hear Mr Fenton speak about his experiences.
He spoke explicitly about the health issues suffered by his family and their neighbours and their inability to relocate because their property values have dived.
Mr Fenton also spoke about the lack of government scrutiny on coal seam gas extraction in his home State.
He said an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) investigation into contamination caused by fracking was kyboshed after pressure from mining companies.
A subsequent investigation by the State of Wyoming is being funded through a $1.5 million grant by the company extracting the gas, Mr Fenton said.
“While there are differences between the USA and Australia in regard to the unconventional gas industry it was clear and disturbing that there are many similarities in regards to fracking, disposal of waste water and political manoeuvring,” Groundswell Gloucester chairperson Julie Lyford said.
Ms Lyford said a professional photographer at last Friday’s meeting has offered to take extensive aerial photos of the Gloucester valley.
“The photographs will capture the valley as it is now, free of charge, so the community can see what is at risk with any extension of mining,” she said.
“As a measure of support, the audience in a matter of minutes crowd-funded over $1000 to pay for aircraft hire for the photo shoot.”
AGL has cautioned people not to draw comparisons between Mr Fenton’s experiences in the US and what is taking place in the Gloucester valley.
“The oil and gas industry in Wyoming has existed for over a century. The geology of the Gloucester basin is very different to many parts of the US, especially in Wyoming and the Powder River Basin,” a spokeswoman for the energy company said.
“In Gloucester there are no drinking water aquifers and there are very few operational bores and wells.
“AGL is not aware of any groundwater being used for any domestic purposes in the area.
“The Gloucester Gas Project is very small when compared to the coal bed methane industry in Wyoming. The Gloucester Gas Project has approval for 110 wells and any additional wells will need to be the subject of a detailed environmental assessment.
“AGL understands that there are thousands of coal seam gas wells in Wyoming.
“In addition, NSW has had the benefit of learning from established industries in other jurisdictions, and now has stringent regulations for well integrity, fracture stimulation and environmental controls.”
Mr Fenton’s visit to Australia was sponsored by the Greens spokesman on mining Jeremy Buckingham and the Lock the Gate Alliance.