Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny

DALBY will be the site of the latest inquiry into Queensland’s CSG sector, with independent federal senator Glenn Lazarus kicking off his inquisition today.
Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny Lazarus to put Qld CSG sector under scrutiny


Haydn Black

Testimony will be heard from Helen Bender, the daughter of Chinchilla farmer George Bender who committed suicide following years of battling CSG companies over land access.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has rejected the Bender Inquiry from the first, saying issues around CSG and landholder access issues – and the environmental impacts – have been extensively canvassed across multiple similar inquiries.

APPEA is concerned it will be little more than a witch hunt, and is increasingly worried that the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into natural gas will not be an opportunity to have a balanced, factual debate that improves community understanding of unconventional gas.

APPEA Queensland director Chris Lamont this morning expressed concerns that Senator Lazarus’s attacks on the industry suggest he is not seeking evidence based responses or submissions.

In the last week Senator Lazarus claimed CSG is poisoning people, telling Fairfax Media that NSW residents should "fight to absolute hell this scourge on society" when asked about CSG.

Numerous independent and parliamentary inquiries have previously confirmed that a properly regulated natural gas industry is safe, responsible and enormously beneficial to Australia, especially to regional communities, Lamont said.

“If this inquiry is to be worthwhile it must hear from independent experts and examine claims from all sides of the debate,” Lamont said.

“While the inquiry will cover issues already exhaustively investigated by many independent and parliamentary inquiries, APPEA sees the inquiry as an opportunity to put facts on the table.

“We hope to see a final committee report that is balanced and factual, improving the community’s understanding of the industry. It is important that fear campaigning and misinformation do not displace fact and credible evidence.”

Last week the BP Energy Outlook report predicted natural gas will be the world’s fastest growing traditional fuel with consumption increasing by 1.8% a year to 2035.

“Queensland is well placed to capitalise on the world’s growing appetite for cleaner burning energy,” Lamont said.

“Saying no to natural gas is saying no to thousands of jobs, regional development, a better economy and a meaningful response to climate change.”

Senator Lazarus’ office says the committee wants to hear from residents concerned about CSG, and examine ways to enforce a right of refusal to all gas drilling.

The inquiry was established in November after the suicide of Bender, with Lazarus describing people living in gas fields as facing a “living hell”

Lazarus said any legislative changes which come out of the inquiry should be known as 'George's Law', in memory of Bender, who fought for years to keep drilling off its property.

Aside from Lazarus, the committee comprises five senators comprising the ALP’s Joe Ludwig and Anne McEwen, the Coalition’s Joanna Lindgren and Matthew Canavan and Greens’ Larissa Waters.

APPEA says a host of experts, such as the Australian College of Learned Academies, the Royal Society in the UK, the NSW Chief Scientist and CSIRO’s Gas Industry, Social and Environmental Research Alliance have confirmed that the industry operates under a robust regulatory regime.

It says the matters have been addressed by the existing national regulations, and that land owners are fairly compensated for any impact from operations.

The inquiry, which will be chaired by Lazarus, will report in June 2016, with the closing date for submissions in March 31.

Two dozen submissions have already been received, all against CSG.

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