Draft Letter to Financial Institutions re Coal Seam Gas

Writing to Financial Intitutions is one way of raising their awareness of your concerns over CSG. Below is a draft letter.


To : Chief Investment Officer

{Superfund/financial institution}

Dear  Sir/Madam,

Subject: Coal Seam Gas

I write to ask if your institution is involved with coal seam gas (CSG) or has plans to do so. What investments do you currently have in companies involved in the CSG industry?

CSG is only one of many ways of meeting energy needs. There are , however, absolutely no substitutes for clean water. The process of mining CSG poses major risks of irreversible damage to our water resources, including the Great Artesian Basin, the only reliable source of water across one fifth of Australia. The likely damage to and pollution of aquifers and the problems associated with lowering of the water table must make us apply the precautionary principle: No investment in CSG activities until and unless it can be proven safe and sound.

The CSG industry will impinge on some of the most productive farmland in Australia at a time when we face both a growing global population and a continuing loss of arable land.  Further, good quality soils are may be ruined by contact with the saline water associated with CSG, adding additional risks to our future food security.

CO2 emissions are contributing to climate instability and the financial costs of extreme weather events in 2011 alone ran to many billions of dollars. Most experts believe we are approaching tipping points for biodiversity with many ecosystems from rainforests to reefs facing collapse.

Large tracts of land are being turned into gas fields. Clearing of bush for pipelines and infrastructure adds to species extinction in Australia. Dredging to build a huge new port for gas export near Gladstone in Queensland threatens the dugong habitat and the Great Barrier Reef, despite World Heritage status. The Gladstone – Curtis Island LNG project alone will generate 95 million tonnes of CO2 during its construction and 20 year operational life.

The US Council of Scientists has advised President Obama that the emissions from gas are much higher than previously calculated; that CSG is NOT a safe ‘bridging fuel’ to a low emissions future. Gas industry lobbyists claim gas-fired power stations produce 70% less CO2 than existing coal-fired power stations. The substantial leakage of gas to atmosphere before combustion are not included in the 70% figure and cancel out any implied benefit . This figure only refers to the emissions released when the gas is burnt. It does not include the emissions involved in producing the gas – the drilling, fracking, compressing, pumping, liquefying and transporting the gas; nor the loss of carbon-storing forests and woodlands cleared to make way for gas wells and pipelines.

Contrary to gas industry spin, CSG is not a “green alternative to coal.”  Because coal seam gas mining uses huge amounts of water we need to count the energy required to de-salinate the water produced from wells. CSG lobbyists say the water produced from the CSG mines will be taken away to be “cleaned” by reverse osmosis. Not only does this fail to accomplish its mission many of the toxic compounds cannot be removed from water by reverse osmosis, (Ref Dr. M. Lloyd-Smith of the National Toxics Network – (http://www.ntn.org.auHYPERLINK “http://www.ntn.org.au%3e/”>www.ntn.org.au) but the energy used for transportation and water “treatment” will add to the greenhouse load ultimately required for the production of CSG.

Clean, green alternatives  that can provide base-load electric power are available now! These could provide a broader and more diverse economic base with more employment opportunities than continuing reliance on fossil fuels. The gas mining industry will take what it wants and be gone in about 20 years with no remediation of aquifers.

Even if we access every source of fossil fuel the world will soon be forced to turn to sustainable methods and a dependence on CSG will only distract from a much-needed sense of urgency. The technology already exists to produce electricity economically from renewable sources: we have a choice whether to turn towards clean technologies now or to continue polluting our air, soil and water and risk a terminal decline in the Earth’s environment.

No amount of wealth promised to a powerful elite can justify the long-term devastation caused by the operation of CSG wells.  CSG mining is more than 80 % foreign-owned and the few short-term jobs created return little to local communities. Incentives currently offered by governments will probably soon prove politically unpopular and be withdrawn leaving the gas miners financially unviable and responsible for the costs of damages.

For example the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has released a new analysis projecting – for the first time – the likely cost of special tax breaks for the oil and gas sector. The report, Drill now, pay later: the growing cost of tax breaks for the oil and gas industry in Australia, calls for the removal of accelerated depreciation for oil and gas assets – a tax benefit not available to most other businesses.

We have an obligation to future generations to leave them a sustainable world. Financial institutions must do their part. No longer can you ignore the social and environmental costs. Financing CSG may look good now but what if they are made to pay compensation?

I urge you and your Board to seek further information about the CSG industry and not to rely on industry spin.
The summary information at http://lockthegate.org.au/documents/#Fact%20Sheets is a good place to start. Many references are provided there to allow further research.

I want my investments to be in clean, green, sustainable industries.
Australian Ethical Investments has recently responded to these concerns and divested from companies involved with CSG. (see report  their web site posted 17 October 2011)
My future involvement with you will depend upon your choice in this vital matter.
I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,