Majority stick to ‘no’ on fracking moratorium

p2232-Council-public-galler

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Impassioned pleas from the public gallery, an eloquent speech from Councillor Jade Kudrenko, a certain volume of letters and emails, and a second small petition – adding 96 signatures to a previous 165 – were not enough to persuade the blockers on the Town Council to impose a moratorium on fracking in the municipality.

 

Revisiting the pro-moratorium motion put forward by Cr Eli Melky at the mid-month committee meeting, everyone stuck to their guns. A division showed Crs Melky, Kudrenko and Chansey Paech supporting the motion, while opposed were Mayor Damien Ryan and Crs Brendan Heenan, Dave Douglas and Steve Brown. These four also opposed lifting standing orders to allow a free-flowing debate on the issue. Absent were Crs Kylie Bonanni and Liz Martin (who has been given six months’ leave from council due to ill health).

 

The speakers from the public gallery were not easy to pigeonhole as ‘lefty greenies’: anyone frequenting the post office would have recognised long-term employees Stuart Blanch and Margaret Rolfe. Mr Blanch has lived all of his 42 years in Alice Springs; Mrs Rolfe has been here since 1977 and raised her children here.

 

Mr Blanch urged a ‘yes’ vote for either a moratorium or an outright ban by council, to tell the Northern Territory Government “our stance on the issue”.

 

He described fracking as “very dangerous”. He said he’d talked to “an awful lot of people” over last six months and no-one was “for this practice”. Without at least a moratorium we would be saying to the government “our area, our water basin is open for business to be raped and pillaged by corporations”. He warned that most of the money from fracking would go overseas, leaving the town with “a water table damaged beyond repair”.

 

“If any single well leaked our drinking water would be gone forever” – we would be left with “a dead town, dead livestock, no agriculture, no Alice Springs”.

 

He said that the opposition to fracking by local people like himself “means nothing if council doesn’t stand with us”.

 

There was clapping and “hear, hear” from the public gallery.

 

Mrs Rolf wants to be assured of a safe environment “for our grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren”. She said 80% of the profits will go overseas and 90% of the wells leak. There is no good reason to frack in central Australia when we have the sun and other renewable energies: “Once our water is gone, there is no going back. We have to look after this beautiful place we live in.”

 

She urged council to “back the people” who put them there and “we do not want any fracking at all!”

 

 

More clapping.

 

Not a word was said in reply to any of these arguments and urgings by any of the councillors opposed to a moratorium.

 

Cr Kudrenko pleaded with them to change their minds. She listed the wide range of information and argument that councillors have been exposed to, through various deputations from industry, government and lobby groups, or could have availed themselves of, such as the community consultations during the compilation of the Hawke report. She understood that an expected meeting with Dr Hawke would not go ahead but that council had been offered instead a private meeting with the Chief Executive of the Department of Mines and Energy, Ron Kelly on May 6. She argued now was the time to form an opinion; council should go to that meeting with a position of deep concern about fracking and support for a moratorium.

 

Applause, “hear, hear”.

 

Mayor Ryan, in his best passive-aggressive chairing style, said he had “enjoyed the history lesson” but reiterated his firm stand that “we need to be able to discuss the controls”. He does not support a moratorium “whatsoever” but looks forward to the discussions with Mr Kelly.

 

Cr Paech said support for a moratorium would not exclude council from any debate as the Wagait and Katherine councils have made clear. A moratorium could be lifted once a regulatory regime is introduced, as the Executive Director Energy from the department has said is needed. Council needed to understand what is best for the community and not be persuaded by the “quick bucks”. He said it was a “disgrace” that council was not supporting a moratorium.

 

Rousing applause.

 

Cr Heenan said his opinion was the same as the mayor’s. His reference to the May 6 meeting with Mr Kelly drew incredulous laughter from the public gallery.

 

Cr Melky criticised Crs Brown and Douglas for saying nothing – “so arrogant that they don’t engage with the debate”. He rejected the suggestion in social media that the anti-fracking movement is a “leftwing conspiracy”, pointing to his next motion, regarding a youth curfew, in which “they’ll [the ‘Left’] come against me”. He said that as long as there is a risk to the town’s water, he would remain opposed to fracking, warning that he would be a “formidable” opponent.

 

More applause. Cr Kudrenko made her final comments – that the community should hear from the council that their safety is what is most important. The vote was lost. And the public gallery emptied.

 

PHOTO at top: Last night’s public gallery. Not all were present to support the call for a moratorium; many were there to pick up cheques from council’s latest round of community grants.

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Hal Duell
    Posted May 1, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I don’t know what effect a Council moratorium on fracking in the municipality of Alice Springs and anywhere in our water basin would have, nor do I know what effect not passing a moratorium would have. But a principled stand seems like the very least our local government’s elected representatives can do.
    The evidence seems overwhelming. Fracking is bad news for ANY hosting community.
    The bad news? Why do you think the new Stuart Highway overpass was built? Why have tenders been let on a connector pipeline?
    We’re being railroaded, and community consultation and community concerns be damned!

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  2. Jim Cleary
    Posted May 1, 2015 at 3:58 am

    Having lived in Alice for 30 years I am disappointed to read that a moratorium will not be held regarding fracking.
    Here in the USA, in the past two years there is the ever increasing call for moratoriums in cities and counties. There has been a growing campaign against fracking not only in Colorado but in many other states.
    Recently the public are becoming more active in challenging the oil companies to the point that we are now being bombarded with TV campaigns advising us just how good fracking is for the country.
    The oil companies are stating that the USA is now the # 1 supplier of natural gas in the world and will shortly become the # 1 supplier of oil in the world. All of this based on fracking.
    All of the recent challenges to fracking have been bought about by the public starting to ask questions and demanding the truth be told about the problems caused by fracking.
    Simply put, people now are finding out what happens when the oil companies move in and take over. They are now finding out that the oil companies can move in and frack wherever they think there might be oil or gas. As the people do not have the rights to the minerals under the grounds, the oil companies can move in and frack on your property.
    As a past resident of Alice I am fully aware of the water situation. There are no snow fields or rushing rivers to help replenish the millions of gallons of water used for fracking.
    Everything you have is artesian, below the surface, so, when fracking takes place drilling will pass through the water table into the rock below. Then the chemicals, water and sand will be pumped down under high pressure to fracture and split the rock to allow the oil and gas to escape.
    In the following article you will get a better idea as to what happens to the water used.
    http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers
    Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle.
    Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid.
    About half of this water returns to the surface, where it is stored in steel containers until it can be injected deep underground in oil and gas waste wells.
    No one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply.
    Chemicals
    Then there are the chemical used for fracking.
    For many years the chemicals used in fracking have been a secret held by each oil company base on “proprietary information”.
    For further info see http://fracfocus.org/major-improvements-fracfocus-announced
    You will see from this article just how much can be hidden from the public. Some identified chemicals include naphthalene, which destroys red blood cells, and ethylene glycol, which can damage the kidneys, nervous system, lungs and heart. So, enjoy you glass of water!
    Recently Obama changed the rules where fracking companies must disclose the chemicals they use while operating on government land only. This will effect approximately 90,000 wells. As you can imagine this has caused an uproar amongst the major companies. The American Petroleum Institute said the rules will impose new costs and lead to delays. They are now going to fight the decision in court.
    Diesel.
    In some cases it has been found that they even used diesel in place of the water for fracking.
    Again taken from another article regarding the use of diesel.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-fracking-diesel-20140814-story.html
    Energy companies have used thousands of gallons of diesel to frack for oil and gas without obtaining the necessary permits required under federal law, according to a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project. The watchdog group’s review of industry and federal data from 2010 to 2014, released Wednesday, found 351 wells in 12 states that used diesel in fracking.
    So, you can imagine what it might be like if diesel were to enter the Territory water basin. Imagine what could happen if it were to get into the water that is in use for the fruit and veg growing in the area. Again, all of this water is from underground.
    Disposal.
    Then there is the disposal of the water mixture that returns to the surface during the Fracking process.
    With the water used in fracking about half it will return to the surface. This has to be stored somewhere until it can be disposed of. Recently we had a bad storm north of Denver. There was a lightning strike which hit one of the storage tank locations. This caused an explosion and fire.
    There are cases where it has been illegally pumped into rivers, then there are some states that allow it to be pumped back underground and stored in empty gas or oil locations underground. In some cases the oil companies pay so much for the amount based on a barrel.
    As you know others have tried to turn the Territory into a nuclear waste dumping ground. So, I can bet there will be a similar situation regarding the fracking waste.
    As I said earlier I am a past resident and this really has nothing to do with me. However I am someone who knows what it is like to live in the Alice and the surrounding locations. I have driven the south road many times and can only imagine what it might look like with fracking rigs and storage tanks along the way. Here in Colorado you only have to drive north along Interstate 25 and there they are, these Jack Pumps, Donkey Pumpers, (many different names), fracking rigs and oil tanks. These are even placed within housing sub divisions.
    If fracking is allowed in the Territory, I would ensure that the oil companies are responsible for any damage to the highways and roads. Until you see it you cannot imagine the heavy vehicles and additional traffic that is required for fracking. Any intersection of their access road crossing a highway or normal road should be the responsibility of the oil company to repair and maintain.
    It is true that fracking can bring jobs and growth to some areas. But at what cost.
    If you can, try and view “Arial America, North Dakota” a Smithsonian TV program or the “Boomtowners” on the Smithsonian channel. These programs show the pros and cons of fracking. Of course as happens, boom towns can turn into ghost towns!
    So that is my comment on the matter. I just hope you all stick together and make a stand.
    Just remember, the cost of gas and petrol will not come down because of fracking! It is simply a way for the major companies to make more money at the expense of everyone else.

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  3. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted April 29, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    A Pot of Gold – or a Fracking Disaster Waiting to Happen?
    http://artvoice.com/issues/v9n25/fracking
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-07-01/france-vote-outlaws-fracking-shale-for-natural-gas-oil-extraction

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  4. Sean
    Posted April 29, 2015 at 8:42 am

    For anyone to brand non supporters for Fracking as “greenies” is very ignorant and insulting to the public.
    Damien Ryan is extremely disappointing and has completely lost my support over this issue.
    As I’ve said before, I’m pro, pro mining and development. But not Fracking – at all.
    It has proven far to dangerous in all countries it’s happened – including this one. Queensland – go talk to the farmers there – not Ron Kelly.
    Go see what has happened to the soil, water and animals. Go see “what government support” and what “gas company support” they are getting after the fact, due to their irresponsible decisions.
    There is SO much information available demonstrating this process is dangerous, and yes “even the processes we use here that are different” to elsewhere (as Ron Kelly and his ex-5th floor staff use to say) has shown to be untrue.
    As a very minimum starting point – go watch the documentary GASLAND. While US based, it actually includes some of what’s going on in Queensland. If that doesn’t get ones interest to go search further, then we’re in real trouble in the Centre.
    (The supporters of Fracking: “Gasland? We use completely different methods here in Australia” FACT: That is incorrect, again, go talk to Queensland).

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  5. Phil Walcott
    Posted April 29, 2015 at 7:28 am

    It was extremely disappointing to observe the outcome of this past Monday night’s Alice Springs Town Council meeting with respect to the motion calling for a moratorium around the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the NT.
    Despite the mountain of evidence-based research both nationally and globally, a slim majority of Council members (4:3) voted against calling on the NT government to place a moratorium on the practice unless it can be PROVEN to be safe for our precious water resources, environment and ultimately our citizens.
    One member was (conveniently?) on “personal leave” so was unavailable to cast her vote. The three in favour wear the political colours of the PUP (moved), Labor (seconded) and Greens (supported).
    The four against wear the political colours of the CLP. Go figure!

    Should this practice lead to an environmental catastrophe within Central Australia or anywhere else around the NT, our water resources will be impacted to the point where we can’t live here anymore. With our natural environment devastated, the homes and properties that many of us have worked extremely hard to build or otherwise acquire will be worthless. No-one to sell them to so we will have to leave them all behind, re-locate elsewhere and ‘begin again’. Move away from our beautiful country because we have no clean water to drink. Land that people have lived on for over 60,000 years destroyed by unnecessary greed. The people who made lots of money at our expense will be gone too. Too sad…too bad!!!

    Call me alarmist? What happens if I’m right (along with many others in Queensland, NSW, the United States and Europe) who’ve already experienced the impacts ??? Why would whole nations (e.g. France, Germany) and jurisdictions ( e.g. Tasmania. New York state) ban the practice if it was safe???

    Alice Springs Town Council should be a strong leader in this controversy. Instead, they are blind followers of the multi-national corporations that dictate to the incumbent NT government who care more about the money story than the people who create it.

    Shame, Council…shame.

    Phil Walcott
    Independent Candidate for the Legislative Assembly
    Alice Springs

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