THE Greens are maintaining shale gas fracking poses a risk to western Victoria’s farmland despite the nation’s top scientific body labelling it comparatively low-risk.
The party is also hoping to claim Western Victoria’s fifth upper house seat to gain the balance of power and block moves to lift the state’s moratorium on unconventional gas exploration.
Greens senators Richard Di Natale and Larissa Waters spent yesterday in the south-west visiting Colac, Timboon, Warrnambool and Portland to drum up opposition to fracking.
Last week The Standard reported that some opposition groups had confused coal-seam gas (CSG) with shale and tight gas — the latter posing fewer risks, according to the CSIRO.
Several companies are searching the south-west for tight and shale (unconventional) gas and conventional gas. Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of rock formations is used in both CSG and tight gas.
“The contention that the CSIRO are putting is that because shale is much lower in the geology the fracking happens much lower down, therefore they’re saying there’s less impact on the surface with subsidence. That may well be the case,” Senator Waters said.
“But the concern is because the wells need to be longer to get to the shale you’ve got more potential for contamination of aquifers.”
The CSIRO told The Standard that while shale fracking posed some risks, “scientific evidence to date from around the world shows us the risks with the technique itself are low when managed properly”.
“In coal-seam gas extraction, the risks of connectivity between surface aquifers must be more carefully managed.”
But the Queensland Senator also said both methods still risked connecting the aquifer to the well.
“Whilst the impacts of subsidence might be a lesser risk the impacts of water contamination are a higher risk because your bores are larger and longer,” she said.
She said the party would introduce a new bill into the senate this year to ban fracking. Senator di Natale said the expansion of the gas industry would industrialise farmland and increase the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The Greens hope to win the Western Victoria’s fifth upper house seat traditionally occupied by a third-party MP.
“We can get the balance of power and drag the other parties over to our position,” Senator Di Natale said.