THERE are plans to launch a Fremantle branch of Frack Free WA.
East Fremantle film-maker and Lock the Gate activist Jane Hammond is spearheading the push and will be screening her doco A Fractured State at the North Fremantle community centre this Thursday May 4 at 6pm to gauge interest.
Ms Hammond said while the issue of fracking was more keenly felt in rural areas, Lock the Gate needs city support to make sure the new McGowan government doesn’t back down from a promised state-wide moratorium and inquiry into the unconventional gas industry in WA.
Premier Mark McGowan came into power promising to ban fracking in the South West, Peel and metropolitan area, causing howls from the industry which said the ban was premature because there were no plans to crank it up at the moment.
But Ms Hammond says there’s been plenty of exploration and an application to frack in the Swan Valley is in the pipeline.
She takes some credit for the premier’s pledge.
“It started in the Swan Valley in the lower outer areas and we had a public meeting where 120 people turned up, and the Labor party noted it and realised its was going to be an issue, and that’s when he raised the ban on the Swan Valley, which became a real point of difference in the campaign.”
Ms Hammond’s short documentary shows Lock the Gate’s efforts to mobilise WA communities to declare themselves gas field free.
It’s only a symbolic statement, but she says it shows the companies they’ve lost the social license and it can be effective.
“We’ve got 15 gas field free communities in WA, including Brunswick Junction, where the company actually shrunk their lease to exclude that community, so it does work.”
Ms Hammond says, like in Fremantle, Lock the Gate screens a documentary to get people interested, then sends a team out to every household asking if they’d like to declare their property gas field free.
Coal seam gas
“We make sure we do better than the census,” she says of the lobbyist’s efforts to include the whole community.
They’re finding that well over 90 per cent of communities sign up.
She says that’d be tricky to accomplish in Fremantle, but notes the city’s previously made bold statements such as declaring itself nuclear free, or welcoming of refugees.
WA’s onshore gas deposits differ from those over east as they mostly involve shale or “tight sands” rather than coal seam gas.
The industry says this makes it safer for the community because they’re deeper, with less chance of damaging underground water reservoirs.
But a 2014 review by the acting commissioner of New York state health department Howard Zucker recommended against allowing fracking because of concerns about its impacts.
While saying “absolute certainty” about the effects of fracking was unlikely to be achieved, Dr Zucker concluded; “the overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information…demonstrated there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes, and the effectiveness of some of the mitigation measures in reducing or preventing environmental impacts which could adversely affect public health”.
Impacts included water contamination, airborne pollutants, climate change as well as an increase in truck-related traffic accidents between 15 and 65 per cent.
Because of these impacts and significant gaps in information, Dr Zucker recommended a fracking ban in New York state.
by STEVE GRANT