Opposition to fracking on rise

Opposition to fracking on rise

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IN A NATIONAL first, a group of Western district graziers has asked a mining company if it has enough insurance to cover damage caused by fracking.

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IN A NATIONAL first, a group of Western district graziers has asked a mining company if it has enough insurance to cover damage caused by fracking.

The graziers have asked for evidence exploration companies have enough insurance for pasture and water remediation or compensation.

The move comes as opposition to fracking -- a technique used to free inaccessible natural gas and oil -- mounts on both sides of Bass Strait.

A group of Dartmoor graziers have written to Somerton Energy, an Adelaide company, which has a lease in the area.

Dartmoor grazier and spokesperson Michael Greenham said he was asking Somerton if they had adequate insurance to cover any rehabilitation of the land or incidents which may occur.

"Like any land degradation issue, repatriation is long-term and may not be realised," Mr Greenham said.

About eight graziers in the Dartmoor area had signed the letter, which pointed out unless the company was covered for liability "there could be dramas."

"The reliance on aquifers and the possibility of water contamination, the amounts of water they use, the industrialisation of the landscape and the lack of our right to deny access are all concerns," he said

"Most farmers are stewards; we want to hand something on to the next generation."

"This industry is extractive, for short-term gain for a few; farmers are in it for the long haul, for the benefit for everybody."

A spokesperson for Cooper Energy, Somerton's parent company, declined to comment.

No drilling is taking place on the tenements at this stage, due to a state government moratorium on fracking, which expires in March.

But Victorian Lock the Gate co-ordinator Chloe Aldenhoven said companies exploring for gas needed to cover the risks.

"The worry is that when these companies stuff up -- whether its a contamination incident, loss of land use, land rehabilitation issues or even weed contamination, farmers in America and Queensland have been left to foot the bill," Ms Aldenhoven said.

"This is especially relevant to farmers who are subject to the National Vendor Declaration, because a contamination incident or exposure to chemicals could seriously endanger farmer's incomes."

Ms Aldenhoven said communities in the south-west had also expressed concern Victorian company, Lakes Oil was moving its exploration focus to the region.

Lakes Oil holds permits for Surf Coast and the Timboon/Port Campbell area; although fracking is currently under a moratorium in Victoria.

Brucknell landholder and resident Debbie Dalziel said a survey had found more than 90 per cent of the community wanted the area declared free of any form of unconventional gas mining.

"We have grave concerns about waste disposal issues, adverse impacts to our soil and water resources and industrialisation of our important agricultural region, should gas mining companies become active in this area," Ms Dalziel said.

In Tasmania, public meetings and a public rally are planned, in the lead up to the expiry of a moratorium on fracking.

Lemont, east of Oatlands, grazier Brett Hall said it was extremely doubtful farming and shale gas mining could co-exist in Tasmania.

"The presence of these wells across the landscape poses a serious risk to our successful branding of Tasmanian produce as being 'clean, green and safe'," Mr Hall said.

"The result of an incidence of contamination, in our water, soils, air quality and chemical residues in our products would close down market access to many countries immediately."

But mining companies have hit back at the claims, saying there is no threat to underground water supplies or the environment.

Lakes Oil executive chairman Robert Annells said it was "rubbish" to say the company planned to used fracking techniques, in any of its tenements.

"We have said, during the last six months, we are not interested in any way, any shape or form in the area around Torquay -- there is nothing there, why would we want to be there for a start?" Mr Annells said.

Conventional drilling technology would be used between Portland and Warrnambool, in the south-west, to determine if gas existed.

"It is used in tens of thousands of drill holes in Australia and millions around the world; it is no different from the way people drill for water.

"The area covered by the test drills would be no larger in size than a small house block."

If production was approved, it would require an area of about 10 metres by 10m, to set up the extraction equipment.

Lake's Otway blocks were extensively drilled in the 1960s, by Shell, CRA, Origin and other major mining companies, who were looking for oil.

Those companies ignored a gas column of more than one kilometre, Mr Annells said.

"They drilled through huge sections of gas and didn't bother to test it," he said.

In Tasmania, PetraGas, a subsidiary of oil and gas company Petratherm, has a petroleum exploration licence covering about 3900 square kilometres in central Tasmania.

The company also said it would avoid methods that have caused debate interstate.

Managing director Terry Kallis said the company would be drilling into rock about one or two kilometres below the surface.

"The concept of fracking has been around for a long-time, it is a method to enhance the productive capacity of conventional and unconventional wells," Mr Kallis said.

"People have decided to use the word fracking and apply negative connotations to it, without understanding there are various methods of extracting oil and gas."

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