Farmers set to blockade billion-dollar gas projects over environmental concerns

FARMERS have threatened to blockade billions of dollars of coal seam gas development unless the State Government imposes a moratorium and delivers answers on environmental issues on the Western Downs and Surat Basin.

More than 200 farmers are expected to rally at Cecil Plains, west of Toowoomba, today to voice their anger and demand more science is done on the gas industry’s impact on some of the state’s best cropping land and the vital Great Artesian Basin.

Basin Sustainability Alliance chairman Ian Hallyor said if the Government did not impose a moratorium “we will do our own”. “We will blockade every site they want to go on,” Mr Hallyor said.

The coal seam gas development feeds not only domestic gas consumption but also planned liquefied natural gas export plants at Gladstone which could provide more than $55 billion worth of development and 18,000 jobs.

But it must access farmland, drill holes and build wells, roads, pipelines, dams and compression stations and some of it is on the best cropping land in Queensland west of Toowoomba.

Today’s rally will be held on one property that is expected to lose about 40ha of land for gas operations. The owners would receive compensation of about $50,000 a year but the economic loss was more like $500,000, Mr Hallyor said.

“No one will buy a farm with a gas well on it. The value is virtually zero,” he said. “It’s going to affect hundreds of properties.”

The blockade threat came as Natural Resources Minister Steven Robertson said that he could not rule out burying salt – which was a byproduct of the CSG production – in landfill even though he was adamant that no environmental damage would be done.

“Development cannot come at any cost,” Mr Robertson said. “The development of that industry … must be environmentally sustainable.”

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