Can coal seam gas and food security coexist?

One of Australia’s major coal seam gas (CSG) explorers has defended the practice, saying it can coexist with food security and agriculture.

Chief executive of Santos, David Knox, has told ABC Radio he supports further scientific research but drilling should continue while it is conducted.

A senate report concluded the CSG industry is moving too quickly and is not allowing for research to be conducted on the impact CSG projects have on groundwater and food security.

Knox has denied the moratorium on CSG exploration wanted by the government is necessary, saying the only way more information can be found is to conduct the drilling.

“In doing that we wouldn’t go with the science,” he told ABC Radio.

“In order to go with the science we need to get into and we need to drill wells, we need to do exploration and then we use that information to feed into the science so we can absolutely answer the key questions and demonstrate that we can continue.

“But we have to do that work otherwise there’s obviously no basis for us to move forward.

“This industry is not a new industry, it’s been producing gas for 15 years.

“We produce about 70 per cent of Queensland’s gas right now, 30 per cent of eastern Australia.

“And the key thing from our perspective is absolutely we support really good science.’’

Knox did admit the industry as a whole needs to improve safety and security of the CSG exploration to lessen the impact on other sectors, including agriculture.

“We can all lift our game and we’ve got to lift our game.

“None of us are perfect, we wouldn’t claim that but we’ve all got to lift our game, we’ve all got to do better and what I say basically is, the expression I use is, we’ve got to raise the bar and we’ve got to practice high jump not limbo dancing.

“We’ve really got to raise our game.

“What’s new here is that we are basically working in conjunction with farmers.

“We don’t put fences up around what we do, we have to work with them and therefore we need really good regulations, really good science, we do need to do an excellent job of explaining what we do and how we do it.

The debate over the dangers of CSG has been raging all year, with a moratorium placed on all new projects in May aiming to solve the disputes between farmers and miners.

All new CSG and petroleum projects were banned in New South Wales until it could be proven the operations will not damage land or water resources.

Senator Bill Heffernan, who is chairing a senate inquiry into coal seam gas extraction beginning in July told Australian Mining gas companies are using “cowboy regulation” in the David and Goliath battle against individual farmers.

“The present regulation of coal seam gas mining is wild western regulation,” he told Australian Mining.

“If one farmer is against it, they go around them and literally surround them rather than taking them to court, so they then have no choice but to surrender.

“These companies are multi billion dollar companies with a global agenda and if they have the right to overpower the individual farmer."

The findings in the senate inquiry released this week has made damning findings against Australia’s $60 billion coal seam gas industry and recommended expansions be halted in sensitive areas.

In the most detailed analysis of the industry to date, the report has found the benefits of the CSG industry are a “relatively short-term prospect”.

A full transcript and audio of Knox’s interview on the ABC is available on its website.

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