Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fracking plans fuel fight over environmental impact - 04/03/2014

Fracking plans fuel fight over environmental impact - 04/03/2014

SARAH FERGUSON, PRESENTER: It's the energy source that's fired up the ailing American economy. Now the shale gas bonanza has come to Australia.

In Western Australia there's potentially enough shale gas to power the state for centuries. But, just like the shift to coal seam gas in the eastern states, it's fuelling deep anxiety about the possible environmental impacts.

Sue Lannin travelled to the remote Kimberley region where traditional land owners are gearing up for a fight.


  1. Minister says no to fracking ban near public drinking water

    Posted 1 hour 15 minutes ago

    The Western Australian Government has ruled out a ban on fracking for shale gas near public drinking water.

    The WA Water Corporation has called for fracking to be prohibited in or near public water supplies because of concerns the fracturing of rock to release natural gas could contaminate water.

    The state Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Marmion, says there is no need for a ban because any application by an oil and gas company to frack near drinking water would face tough scrutiny.

    "If you've got a tenement it's unlikely that you're going to put into the State Government that, 'I'm going to drill through the public water supply', you're obviously taking a very big risk in terms of the assessment of that," he said.

    "It would be assessed under fairly rigorous conditions ... the water supply is paramount."

  2. Going for the "Crackpot of the year" award.............


    Tony Abbott tells Tasmania too much forest is 'locked up' in national parks

    Prime minister launches pre-election salvo, saying ‘Green ideology’ is damaging the state economically

    ..............“We have quite enough national parks, we have quite enough locked-up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked-up forest.

    “So my friends, when I say that I want Australia to be open for business, I mean open for business for the forestry industry.”


    The forestry industry has said it does not want the World Heritage listing revoked, due to the difficulty of selling timber from a previously protected area.


    In what amounts to Abbott’s most in-depth comments about the environment since forming government, the prime minister outlined a philosophy based largely on what people can derive from natural resources.

    “When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists,” he said.

    “That’s what I see and I want to salute you. I salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what mother nature gives us and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity.

    “Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do. You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.”

    Abbott praised Greg Hunt, his environment minister, for understanding that “the environment is meant for man and not just the other way around”.

    The prime minister also announced the creation of a forestry industry advisory council, currently being finalised by the government, to provide information on the sector.


    “[Abbott] is a dangerous, dangerous man. He’s an unreconstructed man. It’s concerning to me that we have an ideologically driven prime minister who has no empathy for the wonder of the natural world, from our reefs to our rainforests. These are the things people think of when they think of Australia.”

    Milne added that Abbott’s strategy of gathering votes in Tasmania was likely to backfire.

    “He has completely misread the Tasmanian situation – there’s a poll that shows 90% of Tasmanians support the forest peace plan,” she said. “I think many genuine conservatives in Tasmania will worry about Abbott’s radical agenda. Trashing existing national parks will scare a lot of conservatives.”


    Tony Abbott says too much Tasmanian forest 'locked up', forms new council to support timber industry

    ............."Tony Abbott has got it so wrong. The logging industry was on its knees in Tasmania because around the world nobody wants to buy timber products that come from old growth forest," she said.

    "There's now a high level of recognition that we need to be protecting the last of our primary forests around the world."

    Senator Milne said the recent peace deal with Tasmania's conservation movement had given loggers "some chance of a future in the plantations", but that Mr Abbott had threatened to "send Tasmania back to decades of conflict".

    "What he'll actually do is destroy the forest industry, not to mention Tasmania's clean, green and clever brand which is our main asset and that comes from our World Heritage area," she said.

    Warnings of return to conflict between environmentalists, industry

    Tasmania's Deputy Premier, Bryan Green, says Mr Abbott's approach to the issue is a step backwards for the timber industry, and a return to the logging war between activists and timber workers.

    1. Bob Brown

      .Tasmania: a death warrant against pristine forests Abbott has never seen

      Although 1% of Tasmanian jobs are in logging forests and 15% in tourism, the Liberals are pushing for a move infused with a destructive materialist ideology which will decimate the region

      Prime minister Abbott’s rousingly-received speech to an audience of loggers at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday night had a Biblical ring to it.

      Abbott referred to the Greens as “the devil”, lectured that “you intelligently make the most of the good things God has given us” and laboured his key message, a steal from Genesis, that “the environment is meant for man”. His audience was the cream of the industry which has marauded the nation’s forests since industrialised logging for woodchip exports to Japanese and Chinese paper mills began in 1970. Abbott said “I don’t see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists ... I salute you.”

      So clear-fall logging and burning of the tallest flowering forests on the planet, with provision for the dynamiting of trees over 80 metres tall, is an ultimate good in Abbott’s book of ecological wisdom.

      Abbott began with a homily to his shipwright grandfather and a story about how, as a schoolboy, he paddled his timber canoe in Sydney Harbour’s Lane Cove National Park. But the boy who bypassed industrial foreshores to find a local forest for his own special experience has become a prime minister with no worries about issuing a death warrant against distant pristine forests which he has never seen.

      There is a parallel here with his easy ability to lock up desperate, warm-hearted but unfamiliar human beings in the murderous conditions of Manus Island. They are secondary to his own progress.

      H G Wells observed a century ago that history is a race between education and disaster. Yet all the signs are that, in terms of earth’s environment, no amount of education and information will deter seven billion Homo Sapiens from making decisions which, like Abbott’s, prescribe a more barren and forlorn planet in the years to come. Oxonian Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar but intelligence can be counter-productive, if not dangerous, when it comes with a lack of empathy and compassion for other human beings and our natural living environment.

      Australians, amongst the best educated people in the world, voted in droves for Abbott because he was discriminatory, pugnacious and simplistic: “stop the boats”, “no carbon tax”, “no mining tax” and “log Tasmania’s World Heritage forests” were all up-front in his winning election campaign. He made a highlight of cutting $4bn from aid to poor people overseas, promising Australians he would use the funds to build them better highways instead: it was another winner. Abbott is an outstanding advocate for me-now materialism and he was elected without subterfuge. He is what he stands for.

      A minority of people rate the environment, or the wellbeing of the world their grandchildren will inherit higher than the wellbeing of their wallets. However, Abbott also knows that hard-hearted exploitation of people and nature has its limits in any democracy. So he covered his homily to the loggers with an excuse to small-l liberal voters based on a studied lie.

    2. Bob Brown

      .Tasmania: a death warrant against pristine forests Abbott has never seen

      One of the first acts of the incoming government was to begin the process to try to get out of the World Heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded; in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.

      Less than 10% of the forests he was referring to have been logged. If that were not so, why would the loggers want them? As with California’s giant redwoods World Heritage area, there are small areas of damage from industrial logging included to give integrity to the protected zone but the vast majority is stunningly intact tall eucalyptus and rainforest filled with bird and animal species, including some threatened with extinction.

      Although 1% of Tasmanian jobs are in logging forests and 15% in tourism, the Tasmanian Liberals, emboldened by Abbott, are promising draconian penalties for anyone who gets in the way of the chainsaws which will destroy the wild and scenic forests. A law proposed by the Liberals put forward mandatory $10,000 fines for first offences and mandatory three month jail terms thereafter – penalties that don’t apply to, say, white collar criminals.

      Whichever way you look at it, the logging of Tasmania’s World Heritage value forests is unreasonable. But reason will be no barrier to more of the sort of visionless and destructive dogma the Australian prime minister regaled the loggers with in Parliament House this week.

  3. The "old colonies" eye off the pristine lands..........


    Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada's resource agenda, documents reveal

    Canadian government closely monitoring how legal rulings and aboriginal protest pose an increasing ‘risk’ for multi-billion dollar oil and mining plans

    The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal.

    Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.

    Yearly government reports obtained by the Guardian predict that the failure to manage the risks could result in more “adversarial relations” with aboriginal peoples, “public outcry and negative international attention,” and “economic development projects [being] delayed.”

    “There is a risk that the legal landscape can undermine the ability of the department to move forward in its policy agenda,” one Aboriginal Affairs’ report says. “There is a tension between the rights-based agenda of Aboriginal groups and the non-rights based policy approaches” of the federal government.

    The Conservative government is planning in the next ten years to attract $650 billion of investment to mining, forestry, gas and oil projects, much of it on or near traditional aboriginal lands.

    Critics say the government is determined to evade Supreme Court rulings that recognize aboriginal peoples’ rights to a decision-making role in, even in some cases jurisdiction over, resource development in large areas of the country.

    “The Harper government is committed to a policy of extinguishing indigenous peoples’ land rights, instead of a policy of recognition and co-existence,” said Arthur Manuel, chair of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which has lead an effort to have the economic implications of aboriginal rights identified as a financial risk.

    “They are trying to contain the threat that our rights pose to business-as-usual and the expansion of dirty energy projects. But our legal challenges and direct actions are creating economic uncertainty and risk, raising the heat on the government to change its current policies.”

    A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs declined to answer the Guardian’s questions, but sent a response saying the risk reports are compiled from internal reviews and “targeted interviews with senior management in those areas experiencing significant change.”

    “The [corporate risk profile] is designed as an analytical tool for planning and not a public document. A good deal of [its] content would only be understandable to those working for the department as it speaks to the details of the operations of specific programs.”

    Last year Canada was swept by the aboriginal-led Idle No More protest movement, building on years of aboriginal struggles against resource projects, the most high-profile of which has targeted Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sands to the western coast of British Columbia.

    “Native land claims scare the hell out of investors,” an analyst with global risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group has noted, concluding that First Nations opposition and legal standing has dramatically decreased the chances the Enbridge pipeline will be built.

    In British Columbia and across the country, aboriginal peoples’ new assertiveness has been backed by successive victories in the courts.

  4. Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada's resource agenda, documents reveal

    According to a report released in November by Virginia-based First Peoples Worldwide, the risk associated with not respecting aboriginal peoples’ rights over lands and resources is emerging as a new financial bubble for extractive industries.

    The report anticipates that as aboriginal peoples become better connected through digital media, win broader public support, and mount campaigns that more effectively impact business profits, failures to uphold aboriginal rights will carry an even higher risk.

    The Aboriginal Affairs’ documents describe how a special legal branch helps the Ministry monitor and “mitigate” the risks posed by aboriginal court cases.

    The federal government has spent far more fighting aboriginal litigation than any other legal issue – including $106 million in 2013, a sum that has grown over the last several years.

    A special envoy appointed in 2013 by the Harper government to address First Nations opposition to energy projects in western Canada recently recommended that the federal government move rapidly to improve consultation and dialogue.

    To boost support for its agenda, the government has considered offering bonds to allow First Nations to take equity stakes in resource projects. This is part of a rising trend of provincial governments and companies signing “benefit-sharing” agreements with First Nations to gain access to their lands, while falling short of any kind of recognition of aboriginal rights or jurisdiction.

    Since 2007, the government has also turned to increased spying, creating a surveillance program aimed at aboriginal communities deemed “hot spots” because of their involvement in protest and civil disobedience against unwanted extraction on their lands.

    Over the last year, the Harper government has cut funding to national, regional and tribal aboriginal organizations that provide legal services and advocate politically on behalf of First Nations, raising cries that it is trying to silence growing dissent.

  5. Crackdown on ‘big business’ of heritage urged

    The Australian |
    March 06, 2014

    THE Productivity Commission is urging reforms to Aboriginal cultural heritage processes amid complaints by miners that heritage surveys have become a “big business” costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The landmark final report, made public yesterday, finds that the exploration sector has been hit by rising costs and falling productivity.

    It calls for the reform of rules that are inhibiting exploration and imposing unnecessary burdens on explorers and sparked industry demands last night that more be done to cut the red and green tape that holds back projects.

    The commission points to frequent complaints by explorers about the cost and time in doing cultural heritage surveys, which many believed had created an industry for archeologists, anthropologists and lawyers.

    Different companies could be forced to resurvey the same site because of “inconsistent and inadequate” listing of heritage sites.

    “Generally, information from previous surveys cannot be accessed because of indigenous privacy concerns and copyright restrictions on the survey report,” the report says.

    The commission recommends better access to the existing knowledge of indigenous heritage, saying the Northern Territory model of requiring all heritage surveys to be lodged with authorities should be adopted by all governments so explorers can access information about indigenous heritage sites.

    It also recommends ending unnecessary overlap between the 1984 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, designed as a temporary measure as part of a failed plan to introduce national land rights laws, and state and territory heritage laws.

    Miners had warned that the overlap could lead to forum shopping that causes delays, but some groups, including the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, have said the law protects heritage where state or territory laws fail.

    However, the report rejects axing the commonwealth law, instead recommending amendments to accredit state and territory arrangements where they met federal standards of indigenous heritage protection.

    The West Australian government told the inquiry escalating costs of Aboriginal heritage surveys were a “significant disincentive”. One company doing exploration in the state’s mid-west reported costs of $25,000 for a two-day anthropological and ethnographic survey, it said.

    The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies told the inquiry heritage surveys cost hundreds of millions of dollars yearly.

    But the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation told the inquiry it rejected any suggestion “to the effect that Aboriginal people are using the cultural heritage process for financial gain” and that costs in heritage survey work were for a specialised service that assisted, rather than hindered, exploration.

    In other findings, the 304-page report warns that there has been a “dramatic increase” in the time to get an exploration licence in some jurisdictions. And it says decisions on land access should take into account “the benefits of exploration to the wider community” and be based on scientific evidence.

    Last night, the mining and petroleum industries rounded on the report to demand cuts to red and green tape. Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said industry wanted a one-stop shop approach to managing heritage.

    The office of Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government would consider all the detail.

  6. Kimberley environmentalists fight Buru Energy's shale fracking plan

    ................Approval faces potential delays after 80 appeals launched

    The exploration project will frack four wells 32 times to release natural gas.

    The company says if these are successful, it could go on to drill between 100 and 150 wells.

    These wells would be drilled from 10 pads, five kilometres apart.

    Buru Energy needs to get approval from WA's Department of Mines and Petroleum before the exploration program can start.

    But it faces potential delays after about 80 appeals were lodged against a decision by the state's environmental watchdog, the Environmental Protection Authority, not to formally assess the project.

    State Environment Minister Albert Jacob will have the final say on whether an environmental assessment is needed.

    The position of the organisation representing the Yawuru native title holders is clear.

    The chairman of Yawuru Prescribed Body Corporate, Neil McKenzie, says there should be no fracking on the land until the native title holders are fully informed of the impacts and have given their consent.

    "No fracking should take place on Yawuru country until Yawuru have obtained independent advice about the risks and impacts of fracking and only if Yawuru native title holders give their free, prior and informed consent," he said in a statement.


    Media Release Senator Scott Ludlam Thursday March 6, 2014 Western Australian farmers can stand up to mining and petroleum companies marching onto food producing farmland in the upcoming Senate by-election in WA by supporting a Greens Bill on land holders’ rights. Today Greens spokesperson for Mining Larissa Waters will debate the bill to strengthen federal laws to give all landholders across Australia the right to say no to coal and gas mining on their land.


    Senate vote confirms Greens only party standing up for farmers against big mining


    06 Mar 2014 | Larissa Waters
    Resources, Mining & CSG

    The old parties have voted down the Greens’ bill to give landholders the right to say no to coal and gas, in the Senate today, confirming the Greens are the only party standing up for farmers against the big mining companies.

    A Lock the Gate delegation of farmers, traditional owners, tourism operators and winemakers watched on.

    “Unfortunately, the delegation from Lock the Gate, of people personally affected by mining on their land, has come to Canberra to see the old parties let them down,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens mining spokesperson, said.

    “Right across our country, people are concerned about coal and gas threatening their land, water and climate and disgracefully landholders have no rights to stop the big mining companies from marching on to their land and doing whatever they want.

    “Alarmingly shale gas is taking over Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia and the Greens are the only party standing up for landholders against this dangerous industry.

    “Without the right to say no, this David and Goliath situation forced upon unwilling farming families across Australia is even more weighted in favour of big coal and gas.

    “The Liberal and National Senators didn’t even bother to participate in the Senate debate, even though rural communities are crying out for landholder rights.

    “The old parties also voted down our Senate motion supporting Lock the Gate’s call for national laws to protect food-producing land from coal and gas and to give landholders the power of veto over mining on their land.


    “We know that the old parties accept donations from the big mining companies, including the Nationals accepting money from Santos, and it’s sad to see where their priorities lie.

    “When Tony Abbott is out in the bush he says that mining companies shouldn’t be allowed on farmers’ land without permission but then he does nothing about it in Canberra.