Regulating the Fracking Industry by Christopher Thomas

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On 17th June 2011 the University of Sydney hosted the annual ‘Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law’ conference under the title of ‘Regulating coal seam gas: implications for energy, food and water security’. Five speakers presented fairly unemotional descriptions of the present situation and though no private industry-representatives accepted any invitation to present. This article gives a brief description of the conference and the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) sector.

Professor Alan Randal, of the University of Sydney, was the first speaker and he described some of the water impacts. The CSG sector in NSW, at least, is exempt from requirements for water licences, which doesn’t in any way serve the interests of water management. This lack of equal treatment of all water users undermines the market approach promoted by many Australian governments of pricing water in a market system, and probably results in higher use of water by the CSG and non-CSG sectors. The entire Australian CSG sector water usage is projected, on average per year over the next 25 years, to extract from groundwater systems the equivalent to ~50% of what is currently being extracted from from the Artesian Basin (1). The dilemmas of CSG water use is partly addressed in Qld by the limitation on use of evaporation ponds, though there exists an inherent complexity of water treatment where the waste water originates from a multitude of spatially dispersed wells.

Read more: ACCEL Conference 2011 – full length

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