Australian Farmers in Fracking FightAug 15, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
Farmers in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia are waging a war against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by vowing to "lock out" mining companies that want to access coal seam gas on their land. In addition to posting signs promising to "lock out" the drillers, these farmers have promised to go further, even to the point of standing in front of fracking equipment to keep it from reaching their property.
At least 2,000 Australian farmers are participating in the "Lock the Gate" campaign. Their fracking opposition is seen as unusual, given their usual pro-business, conservative stance on most issues. But according to Sky News, they fear that fracking for coal seam gas will poison underground water, contaminate good agricultural soil and cause serious health problems.
Coal seam gas is methane gas found that is found in pores and ‘cleats' of coal seams, often trapped there by water. Proponents of coal seam gas purport that this methane, when burnt, produces about 40 percent less greenhouse gas than coal. But un-burnt it is at least 20 times more polluting than carbon dioxide.
According to Sky News, environmentalists in Australia says drilling leases in Queensland and New South Wales already cover an area ten times the size of Tasmania. They want a ban on fracking until all health, social and environmental risks have been fully explored.
But there is a lot of pressure on Australian politicians to let frackers have their way. The government of Queensland, for example, estimates that taxes and royalties from just one coal seam gas export project could earn it as much as $1 billion per year. In tough economic times like these, it's hard to ignore that promise.
Members of the Lock the Gate Alliance face an uphill battle in the fight against frackers. If Australian politicians don’t see things there way, several coal seam gas companies have already said they will take farmers to court to force their way onto their lands.