MPs drill toxic topic

THE gloves are off for the Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, and the State Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, over one of the hottest topics of the moment – coal seam gas mining.

Yesterday Ms Saffin returned fire over comments Mr Cansdell made in the Northern Star on Wednesday that opposition to coal seam gas (CSG) mining in the region was largely inspired by the US documentary Gaslands.

“I would point out to Steve that people in our community, particularly farmers and landholders – traditionally National Party supporters – first raised alarm bells over coal seam gas exploration well before Gaslands came out,” she said.

Mr Cansdell, a former Australian boxing champion, counterpunched claiming a moratorium on all CSG mining would hurt honest companies in the industry who are not using the controversial fracking process.

He said the main issue for people of the Northern Rivers was fracking, and the use of the toxic BTEX cocktail of chemicals which have the potential to contaminate underground aquifers.

“Metgasco don't do any fracking in their operations in Northern NSW,” he said. “If you are going to have a moratorium, don't punish someone who is doing the right thing, like Metgasco.”

Ms Saffin said she supported the concerns of constituents but had not thrown her support behind calls for a moratorium.

“The moratorium may not happen but I support the process and recognise the concerns of farmers and landholders and other local residents,” she said.

Ms Saffin and Mr Cansdell both agreed that CSG should not be mined in the region without scientific evidence it was safe.

“I have no problem with Metgasco and I welcome clean, safe, natural gas production in our region,” Ms Saffin said.

“But the community needs to be assured that any mining in our region is clean and safe.”

Mr Cansdell said: “Ban the BTEX chemicals and put a moratorium on fracking until any scientific outcomes through studies are finalised.” The Environmental Defenders Office will hold an information seminar on CSG mining tonight from 6pm at the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club.

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