Australian MP sets river on fire to protest over local gas mining

Australian MP is blaming seeping methane from a nearby fracking site for making it possible for him to set Queensland’s Condamine River on fire.

In an act of protest against coal seam fracking, the Australian Greens party MP Jeremy Buckinghamset fire to methane gas bubbling up through Queensland, Australia’s Condamine River

Jeremy Buckingham — a Greens party MP for New South Wales — posted a video of the incident to his Facebook page on Friday. As of Saturday afternoon, it had been shared more than 50,000 times.

“Unbelievable! A river on fire. Don’t let it burn the boat,” he says in the video. “The most incredible thing I’ve seen. A tragedy in the Murray-Darling Basin.”

The Murray-Darling Basin is the largest river system in southeastern Australia and a significant source of fresh water for drinking and agriculture.

Buckingham said the river burned for more than an hour. He believes the nearby coal seam gas (CSG) operations were to blame.

“This area has been drilled with thousands of CSG wells and fracked. This river for kilometres is bubbling with gas and now it’s on fire,” he said.

“This is the future of Australia and the Murray-Darling Basin if we do not stop the frackers who wants to spread across all states and territories … this is utterly unacceptable.”

The Greens are campaigning to ban fracking in Australia.

Professor Damian Barrett, the lead researcher into unconventional gas with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has been monitoring the river’s gas seeps.

“The isotopic signature is telling us it’s coming from coal at that point in the landscape but coal is quite close to the surface and there’s a naturally existing small fault line, which cuts the river at that point,” he said.

Barrett said research over the past 12 months showed the rate of the gas bubbling in the river was increasing.

Australia isn’t the only country where fracking is happening.

British Columbia is looking to have three liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities up and running in the province by 2020.

Unlike CSG, LNG is natural gas that’s been cooled and turned into a liquid, which makes it easier to transport overseas. It, too, is extracted using a well.

Federal scientists have said that LNG poses a low environmental risk — but environmentalists are still concerned about the potential for explosions on LNG tankers, as well as the risk of fires resulting from spills.

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About the Author: Akhtar Jamal

Tribune International