Tuesday 4/09/2012 Rhiana Whitson, ABC Gippsland
About 100 people attended a public meeting on coal seam gas on Monday, organised by the newly-formed Wellington Coal Seam Gas Wellington Awareness Group
Representatives from Doctors for the Environment, the Environment Defenders Office and Monash University spoke about the potential risks associated with CSG mining and exploration and landholders rights to refuse mining.
Esso, an affiliate of ExxonMobil, was not invited to speak at the event but a company representative attended the meeting and answered questions from the crowd.
Esso and Ignite Energy Resources hold licences to explore coal seam gas options in large areas of Gippsland.
ExxonMobil spokesman Chris Welbury says the company will begin drilling for coal seam gas over the next 18 months to see whether mining CSG is commercially viable.
He says the company will not use hydraulic fracking during the exploration phase.
We're not going to be producing any gas, producing any water, we're not going to be using any hydraulic fracturing technique, we're purely taking samples of the coal to understand whether that has gas.
We will only move forward with a project if we can demonstrate to ourselves and to the community that the gas can be extracted safely.
Monash University environmental engineer Dr Gavin Mudd says there is not enough research to allay concerns about the environmental and health risks associated with CSG.
He says CSG mining could pose serious risks for water quantity and quality and that evidence of this had been observed in Queensland and New South Wales.
In some areas it's either exacerbated or directly caused by CSG… There's also the impacts on water quality, the chemistry of the water, what's dissolved in the water and also what the water brings up with it, whether that be gases, salts, heavy metals, some people also have concerns about radio nuclei such as radium which can also be contained as well.
He says aquifers polluted from CSG could also contaminate groundwater.
Environment Defenders Office lawyer Nicholas Croggon says landholders have few legal rights to oppose mining.
Landholders do have the right to refuse entry but the State Government has the final say on whether mining is approved.
We'd like landholders to have the ability to simply to say no and not for the privilege to be accorded to the mining industry.
It's our belief that Victoria's environmental laws are currently not sufficient to deal with the sort of risks that coal seam gas mining poses.
The State Government recently banned the mining practice of fracking and any new CSG exploration licences until the Federal Government decides on a national framework to guide CSG exploration.