South West filmmaker Richard Todd has called fracking the “asbestos of our life,” and hopes in 20 years time we do not look back asking how we let it happen knowing how bad it was.
Todd spent five years researching fracking and the onshore gas industry for his film Frackman and found the practice was not good for the environment.
He disagreed with peak bodies representing the gas industry about the fact there was no evidence fracking was detrimental to the environment.
“We know how bad this is, and it is up to us and the McGowan Government not to bow to industry, if they get this into the Kimberley they will destroy the Kimberley forever,” he said.
“There is no rehabilitation from this stuff.”
Todd said there was stacks of evidence about the negative impacts of the onshore gas industry and how it effects agriculture, water tables and air quality.
“It is like a silent killer how it ends up destroying communities.”
Todd said many communities were left devastated once an onshore gas company finished its operations and left a town.
“People who work work in the industry like the work while it is around, but a lot of the time it is very short lived because the work is there for a short period of time in the construction phase,” he said.
“Then in the maintenance phase everyone loses their job and these little towns which suddenly got busy – cafes opened up and real estate prices increased – then a few years later everything goes away.”
Todd said the campaign against fracking in WA was part of the reason why the McGowan Government was elected because they promised to hold a statewide moratorium on fracking.
“It was so reassuring to see the Victorian Government come out last week and say, not only have we put a moratorium on the industry in Victoria we are now going to listen to the public and the farmers,” he said.
“They said, we do not want it because it is unsafe and it will destroy the beautiful green image of good fresh agriculture that Victoria has.
“The Victorian Government also said they looked at the science and the science is absolutely there from their perspective that it would not be a good thing for the state.
“We are now calling on the WA Government, which now has a whole stack of evidence from independent scientists as opposed to handpicked scientists from the industry.
“There is a lot of evidence which has gone before the McGowan Government to say that we are now going to extend this ban to the whole of WA.”
Todd said the industry needs to be stopped in the Kimberley and Mid-West and legislation was needed that the industry would not be established in the South-West.
“It needs to be stopped because it is an absolute con that we are running out of gas, even the Financial Review has said it this week.
“The only reason we want to mine anymore gas is to make money for multinationals and now we are paying through the roof.”
Todd said one of the biggest issues faced by the gas industry is that they could not workout how to ensure metal pipes used to extract gas would not leach chemicals into the earth’s crust.
“The whole argument about our formations are different in the South West, drilling is deeper, it is a total con,” he said.
“I have sat in industry workshops and a worldwide conference where the biggest player in the US got up and said, ‘let’s talk about the elephant in the room.’
“They still have not been able to workout how they can stop these wells from leaching and having this movement of things that should stay there deep but end up in the atmosphere or water tables.”
Todd said the US was a good example of the consequences of fracking because it had been occurring there longer where towns, water tables and bores have been completely destroyed.
“We lit the Condamine River [Murray-Darling Basin, QLD] after they were fracking in that area in less than a couple of years,” he said.
“The industry tried to say the gas was always there, we spoke to the farmers on that stretch of the river who said they only ever had pinpricks of methane bubbling.
“What we saw there was this spa along the riverbed and scientists said they were sure it was a result of these mini earthquakes which occur with fracking.
“Something has to give and it decided to give underneath the river and now methane is leaking into that area.”
Todd said there was now a massive revolt from farmers who were promised that fracking on their properties would not affect their water.
“Now they are talking about compensation and it has destroyed their farms because water levels have dropped so low that farmers do not know what to do about water anymore.”
“They are selling up devastated, we are talking about suicide going on.
“Someone needs to be held accountable for that and it is the companies and MPs in QLD that let that occur knowing the science was out there, but selected the science paid for and written up by scientists working for the industry.”
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s acting executive director geological survey and resource strategy Ian Tyler said as a regulator, their role was to seek compliance with state legislation.
Mr Tyler said regulations and policies were to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of WA’s mineral and energy resources.
“All gas and petroleum related infrastructure must be maintained and any loss of containment reported and remediated,” he said.
“Surface gas pipes if not in use must either be removed or if suspended for future use properly maintained with requirements on regular maintenance and inspections.”
Mr Tyler said regulations were to ensure any petroleum activity carried out in WA was done using ecologically sustainable development principles with an approved environmental plan.
“The regulations are objective, risk based and encourage the adoption of leading practice environmental management systems and continuous improvement management strategies to ensure environmental impacts and risks are acceptable and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable,” he said.
WA Government spokesperson said the McGowan Government would make a decision and release the independent scientific inquiry on hydraulic fracture stimulation before the end of the year.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.