Keep gas off agricultural land
COAL seam gas production should be excluded from highly productive agricultural land, a Senate report into coal seam gas extraction on the Murray-Darling Basin has recommended.
The report, released by the Liberal Party's Duty Senator for Page, Bill Heffernan, recommended that where industry and agriculture co-existed, the maintenance of agricultural productivity should take priority over the needs of the gas industry in any dispute between landowners and the industry.
The committee further recommended that the Commonwealth and the States establish an independently managed trust funded by the gas companies to make financial provision for long-term rectification of prob- lems such as leaks in sealed wells or subsidence and erosion caused by collapsing pipelines.
"The committee is deeply concerned with brine and salt residues - more than 700,000 tonnes of salt will be produced every year," its report said.
"It recommends that salt and brine be removed from agricultural regions and water catchments."
The committee recommended a consistent national regulatory framework for all aspects of the coal seam gas industry be established.
"The major risks associated with the coal seam gas industry are whether it has the potential to significantly deplete the groundwater on which agriculture and regional communities depend, to contaminate higher-quality water, to alter the hydrology of the affected regions, or to do irreparable damage to the aquifers containing that water," the committee found.