US EPA report on fracking shows why Australia must ban the practice

Published: December 09, 2011

The report by the US Environmental Protection Agency linking the practice of hydraulic fracturing (or 'fracking') will send shivers through the Australian coal seam gas industry.

The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath a Wyoming community where residents say their well water smells of chemicals.

Fracking involves pumping millions of litres of water and sand and thousands of litres of chemicals under very high pressures into the coal seam in order to better release the gas trapped in that seam.

The report, which has been two years in the preparation, challenges long-stated assertions by the gas industry. These include assertions that hydrological pressure would naturally force fluids down, not up; that deep geologic layers provide a watertight barrier preventing the movement of chemicals towards the surface; and that the problems with the cement and steel barriers around gas wells aren't connected to fracking.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, called on Australian state governments to impose an indefinite moratorium on the practice of fracking. In New South Wales this would involve the O'Farrell government in extending its six-month moratorium and in Queensland, it would require a complete turn-around by the Bligh government and the LNP Opposition which have both placed their faith in the coal seam gas industry.

"Fracking is a high-impact activity that clearly has the capacity to contaminate aquifers outside the coal seam," Mr Hutton said.

"According to the industry's own sources 40 per cent of coal seam gas wells will be fracked in Queensland. That is a very large number of wells and the potential for inter-aquifer contamination is unacceptably high.

"Once you have contaminated an aquifer with these chemicals there is no way to fix it."

Mr Hutton will be spending the next two days at the community blockade of AGL's coal seam gas activities at Gloucester.


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