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Farmers fire up over CSG ad claims

Beef Central, 04/09/2012

A scene of cattle near CSG well infrastructure from an APPEA television commercial.A group representing the concerns of landholders and communities affected by coal seam gas developments says the gas industry has broadcast television advertisements that falsely claim CSG production is safe for groundwater resources.

In a media release issued yesterday afternoon Basin Sustainability Alliance chair David Hamilton said an advertisement aired on regional television by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) this week falsely claimed that the CSIRO had deemed coal seam gas extraction safe for groundwater.

“BSA is extremely disappointed that APPEA has thrown big dollars into misleading advertising campaigns in an attempt to win over the public. The reference to CSIRO to substantiate the claim is unfounded and irresponsible," Mr Hamilton, a Darling Downs farmer and former general manager of plant science with the Qld DPI, said.

“BSA is not aware of any CSIRO research that has concluded that CSG is safe for groundwater supplies.”

Mr Hamilton said the CSIRO gave evidence to the 2011 Senate Inquiry into the implications of CSG development on the Murray Darling Basin.

“At no time during the inquiry did CSIRO representatives indicate that CSG extraction would not impact on groundwater. Rather it’s our understanding that they explained just how difficult it was to accurately predict the likely impacts of CSG extraction on groundwater resources,” Mr Hamilton said.

“Concerns about the drawdown and contamination of groundwater was one of the key reasons why BSA formed over two years ago and we continue to hold serious fears for the long term sustainability of our water supplies.”

The BSA said the claims in the advertising raised concerns about the ability of APPEA Chief Operating Officer Rick Wilkinson to execute his new role as a Gasfields Commissioner on Queensland's Gasfields Commission with impartiality. 

“These sorts of tactics do little to build landholder and community trust in both the industry and newly formed Gasfields Commission. There needs to be a truthful and transparent exchange of information, that is not clouded by public relations ‘spin’.”

BSA is calling on the on the government to intervene in the way CSG companies are attempting buy a ‘social licence’ for gas exploration by spending on advertising campaigns.

“Their money would be better spent on genuine research and monitoring programs, instead of splashing around millions of dollars on advertising.”

BSA said it had contacted APPEA, however APPEA media relations manager was unable to confirm if a transcript of the advertisement or evidence of the research upon which the claims were made could be made available.

Beef Central attempted to contact APPEA COO Rick Wilkinson yesterday but was waiting for a response at the time of publishing. 

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