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NSW Farmers fight Coal Seam Gas 'Fracking'

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In NSW's top agricultural region, the rich wheat cropping lands between the Gwydir and Namoi rivers from Narrabri to Moree, a battle over the future of the country is being fought.
The NSW government has sold gas exploration leases covering much of the state for hundreds of millions of dollars. The licences allow exploration companies access to private land, and rights to drill wherever and whenever they like.
Energy and mining monopolies are moving in
The plains are under 'frack attack', with rigs drilling deep into the earth to extract gas from coal seams around NSW's north western slopes and plains. Repetitive hydraulic compression jets of water, sand and chemicals is used to fracture, 'frack' the rock in which the gas is locked. Large quantities of brackish water are produced, along with residues of toxic chemicals. 
Coal seams, which are thick and often shallow in much of the Hunter, Illawarra and the central western slopes of NSW, cover much of northern and western NSW in thinner seams at varying depths under The Great Artesian Basin. The rigs are drilling through the Great Artesian Basin to the gas seams below.
The proven reserves along the east coast stand at 36,600 Petajoules, more than 5 times the remaining reserves of the Cooper Basin, Bass Strait and the Otway Basin natural gas fields, currently relied on to supply South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. Similar 'fracking' techniques are used in the shale gas industry, also starting to expand along the east coast.
In some parts of Queensland, wells are sunk every 750 metres. Some idea of the scale of this new rush is the fact that 40,000 coal seam gas wells are planned for Queensland alone. 
Once production has commenced, gas compressor stations proliferate to pump the gas to markets. The land is fractured, broken into small lots by compressor stations and settlement ponds, as tracks and pipelines leave denuded land between the sites.
Broad resistance building up
Under the banner of “Lock the Gate”, farmers and others are refusing coal seam gas drilling companies access to agricultural land, and rallying to stop them. The struggle in the Moree Plains is only one of many fights slowly gathering farmers, townspeople, environmentalists and others to stand against the lies, money, media and politicians working for the gas monopolies.
In the hamlet of Bellata, midway between Narrabri and Moree, 300 locals gathered in early June, for a community meeting to discuss what was happening and express their concern. Their rallying joined a growing wave of rural revolt against coal seam gas. Beginning in the Hunter Valley, the 'fracking' fight has expanded to include the richly fertile Liverpool Plains and down to the southern highlands, just outside the Sydney basin. 
At its June meeting, the Moree Plains Shire Council imposed a 60-day moratorium on processing seismic survey applications. It is now requiring an agricultural impact assessment, and is looking to extend the moratorium if 60 days is not sufficient. Moree Plains Shire Councillor John Tramby noted to the Sydney Morning Herald the drilling companies “are saying they don't need our approval”. 
Politicians play games, farmers act
The NSW Government imposed a statewide moratorium on issuing of new coal, coal seam gas or petroleum licences, while the government develops a “strategic regional land use policy“. The scoping paper had 1500 public responses. Meanwhile, there is no moratorium on licenced exploration, or 'fracking' going ahead.
The NSW Resources and Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, has been talking about being systematic in charging a predetermined schedule of fees, the economic ability of applicants to develop the resources and sustain the project, and community consultation prior to releasing areas for licences. While the Minerals Council has welcomed the Minister's approach, it is concerned about delays.
A Federal Parliamentary Committee, chaired by NSW Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, is also inquiring into the industry.
Among local farmers there is only concern for the land. They want their land, air and water protected from the gas monopolies. Their message is clear. They are locking their gates to the coal seam and shale gas 'fracking' industries.


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