Image for The cry for justice: The Cost of Coal Seam Gas

The Gas Rush

Reporter: Matthew Carney

Broadcast: 21/02/2011

With access to guerrilla activists and their undercover filming, Matthew Carney reports on the coalition of farmers, local townspeople and even a corporate titan who want to halt Australia’s gas rush.

Imagine you are running a successful farming operation; then one day a man from the gas company arrives with news that a coal seam gas field lies beneath your feet. From there 3 wells are sunk, then another 18. And then a proposal for another 30, turning your property into a thriving gas field, while threatening the viability of the working farm.

Down the road, the neighbour sells after 48 wells are sunk into his property. The compensation of $250 a year, per well was not much inducement to stay. The wells themselves are estimated to be making the companies a million dollars a year, each.

And then the gas company says they might have to move your house to sink another well into the land.

This is the experience of just one of the farmers featured on Four Corners this week.

Right across Australia gas companies are drilling down through the earth to extract the resource that the industry says will be one of the answers to our future energy needs. Already some $31 billion worth of gas projects have been approved by the Federal Government, which are expected to generate thousands of jobs and billions in revenues.

But this precious resource lies beneath homes and farms, and the food bowls of Australia.

And this is where the gas companies are drilling; prompting a heated conflict over who should pay the price for our energy supplies.

Matthew Carney reports from communities in Queensland and NSW that are directly affected. Farmers tell of their feelings of violation and frustration; their belief that they are losing control of their properties and their ability to plan for the future. As one says “It’s really frustrating. We have taken on extra debt to fund our farming business and we are powerless to stop people accessing it and abusing it.”

But it’s not only what’s happening above ground that worries them.

One farmer claims his water supplies are dropping alarmingly as the coal seam drilling causes the water table to drop at an accelerated rate. This cattle farmer believes he may only have two years supply left in one of his key water bores.

Then there is the danger posed by faulty gas wells. The program shows local activists testing for leaks and finding highly explosive gasses leaking at alarming levels.

Others talk of their fears that Australia’s greatest underground water resource, the Great Artesian Basin will be contaminated and depleted. Four Corners details cases of water supplies being tainted by salty toxic water.

Many of those affected are beginning to work together on a national campaign to call a halt to “The Gas Rush”.

Four Corners, presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 21st February at 8.30pm on ABC 1. It is replayed on Tuesday 22nd February at 11.35 pm. You can also see the program on ABCNews24 at 8.00pm each Saturday, on ABC iview or on our website at Video on Demand.

More HERE