MUSICIAN John Butler has thrown his support behind the Lock the Gate campaign and will hold two concerts with a clear message to the onshore gas industry setting up operations in the South West.
Butler hopes the concerts raise awareness about the onshore gas industry in WA and said the response to the first Frack Off! gig was amazing with 4500 people snapping up tickets in two days, making it a sell out.
The onshore gas industry intends to explore and drill nearly 50 million hectares of land throughout WA, according to the Lock the Gate and Gas Field Free South West WA campaigns, which have joined forces to hold the concert.
The grassroots organisations, Lock the Gate and Gas Field Free South West WA are concerned about gas mining operations in their communities.
Lock the Gate has more than 250 groups throughout Australia made up of farmers, traditional custodians, conservationists and urban residents.
In an interview with the Mail, Butler said the concerts would be an avenue for people to come together, express how they felt about the fracking issue and get educated.
“Everything people have heard about the whole fracking issue has been quite frightening and at the same time they do not understand a whole lot about it,” he said.
“It is hard to understand because we are not scientists or gas miners.
“Everything that is hitting us via the States or the East Coast where these industries are entrenched, the nightmare stories coming out of it, we do not know a lot about it and it sounds absolutely frightening.”
In the South West, gas wells are located at Whicher Range amongst bush land and pine plantations near Busselton and Margaret River.
The gas wells are currently operated by a US company CalEnergy Resources which have been at the site since 2013.
Last year the company conducted flow testing at Whicher Range to determine if there was enough conventional gas below the surface to set up an operation in the South West.
The drilling that takes place at Whicher Range is 4000 metres below the surface and through the Yarrgadee aquifer water supply.
Butler said the state government should pay attention to movements like Lock the Gate, which banded communities together and made their own declarations about the places where they lived being free of the onshore gas industry.
He wants it to become an election issue because farmers and communities throughout WA all agreed that water was the most valuable resource we had.
“We cannot allow this irresponsible industry which has a horrible history throughout the world just to run amok, run amok with our water,” he said.
“It is just crazy, it is not on.”
“I think your back gets pushed against a wall and there comes a point when you have to say I am going to dig my heels in.
“This is when the Australian and West Australian communities have dug their heels in and said, ‘Sorry, nah, not our water, not here, not now, not this way.’”
Butler said legislation supported mining companies before landowners and farmers, and that landowners did not have the right to veto and say, ‘We do not want fracking or the onshore gas industry on our land.’
“We do not actually have the right to say no, all we have the right to is negotiating our compensation,” he said.
Butler said the community had a strong opinion about the industry and mining companies should be transparent before they even thought about doing business.
“As far as a social licence goes I do not think they have any social licence and if they had a social conscience they would actually engage with the community and be transparent which they are not,” he said.
Butler said while reports showed that fracking was not a suitable method to extract gas in the South West, the Department of Mining and Petroleum handed out permits without any restrictions which meant there were no restrictions on fracking.
The technique used to extract shale and tight gas in the South West is horizontal drilling which Butler said sounded like semantics for fracking.
“Fracking is basically high pressure, chemical water which are put into these geological formations and cracked open,” he said.
“[In the South West] they use a horizontal drill which makes the well case even more volatile and susceptible to damage and they have to use something called slick water which has more chemicals in it.
“The only difference with shale and tight gas is it is more pressure with more chemicals.”
The Department of Mines and Petroleum executive director of petroleum Jeff Haworth said there were no plans to conduct hydraulic fracture stimulation (fracking) at Whicher Range.
Mr Haworth said the independent study conducted by scientists from the University of WA, Curtin University and CSIRO, the Western Australian Energy Alliance, was very clear that fracking was not suitable at Whicher Range.
He said the South West consumed a large percentage of WA's domestic gas used in mining, manufacture and fertiliser production and that an onshore industry in the region could lower the price of gas due to decreased transport costs.
“Thereby lowering costs to the end consumers including energy users, resources and manufacturing industries and the agricultural industry,” he said.
“Onshore gas would also provide energy security to the state and enable growth in renewable energy, as evidenced by the USA.”
Gas Field Free South West WA spokesperson Lisa Chatwin said the DMP had failed to protect residents in the South West by allowing a previously failed fracking project at Which Range, which is a priority one drinking water catchment.
“We are not reassured by the claims being made by the DMP, that our drinking water and our environment will be protected if they approve onshore gas exploration and production in our drinking water catchments,” she said.
Ms Chatwin said protecting the South West from the onshore gas industry was going to become a political issue in the upcoming state elections.
“This is evident with the response to the John Butler awareness concert which has received overwhelming support and sold out in two days,” she said.