Wyoming rancher and anti-fracking advocate John Fenton has issued a warning message to Mountains residents — “Don’t let the gas industry ruin your beautiful Blue Mountains.”
Mr Fenton, who finished an Australian speaking tour funded by NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham and the Lock the Gate Alliance on Monday, told communities what fracking (the process of drilling for coal seam gas) has done to the air and water in his home state of Wyoming in the foothills of America’s Rocky Mountains.
He visited Australia earlier this month and warned residents they should not assume a “beautiful part of the world like the Blue Mountains will always be protected. We thought that. I can tell you: nowhere is safe.”
The reluctant film star from the movie Gasland — a documentary about the negative effects of natural gas drilling — says his once tranquil, rural landscape of 950 acres is now a “noisy industrial scar” with 24 gas wells, pipelines and tanks.
Animals were dying and his community was “living proof” of the damage being done by fracking, he said.
“One day my neighbour had nine bulls drop dead from drinking the water from a contaminated ground water well.”
“After sampling aquifer water in our area the EPA has found oil, methane, toxic chemicals and a whole range of other dangerous carcinogens. Our community was warned not to drink the water and to shower with windows open so as to prevent a build-up of explosive gas.”
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has branded the 30-day tour “an unfounded case against production of much-needed gas resources”.
“Efforts to demonise the natural gas industry via a travelling road show imported from the United States trot out tired old arguments designed to scare rather than inform,” an APPEA spokesman told The Land newspaper.
“The orchestrated visit is avoiding country Queensland where gas production and agriculture are working side by side.”
Mr Fenton said he went where he was “scheduled to go”.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham has called on the state government to freeze the application process for the petroleum exploration licence over 2000 square kilometres in the Blue Mountains.
And Jan O’Leary of Stop Coal Seam Gas Blue Mountains said there was widespread community concern.
“We already have one approved CSG exploration licence hovering over our heads here and now we have an application for another covering a huge area of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. We could well go the same way as Wyoming.”
But Ms O’Leary said she was “very pleased to read in last week’s Gazette that Roza Sage is such an opponent of any CSG activity in the Mountains” and “looks forward to her speech in Parliament raising her objections”.
Last week a NSW Environment Protection Authority investigation revealed that a coal seam gas project operated by energy company Santos in north-western NSW had contaminated a nearby aquifer, with uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines.
Blue Mountains City Council has sent submissions to the state government over the CSG issue. Public consultation on the issue closes tomorrow (March 13).