Lies, lies and more lies

The insidious nature of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry has again been highlighted with more deceptive advertising claims from one of the big industry players – Santos.

It’s ironic that the many individuals and groups campaigning to stop CSG (and operating on a shoestring) are regularly accused by the industry of lies and distortion of facts – usually without specifics. Meanwhile, those who stand to make enormous financial gains from CSG continue to willfully mislead the public via multi-million dollar ad campaigns. We’ll take a look at three recent examples:

1. APPEA TV ad:

“CSIRO studies have shown that groundwater is safe with coal seam gas”

David Knox

David Knox (Santos CEO, APPEA Chairman)

APPEA is the industry body representing the CSG industry in Australia (and APPEA’s chairman is David Knox, CEO of Santos). They’re behind the multi-million dollar We Want CSG campaign.

In September 2012, APPEA found themselves admonished for their TV ad by none other than CSIRO – our nation’s peak scientific body – for claiming that “CSIRO [and government studies] have shown that groundwater is safe with coal seam gas”.

CSIRO issued the following release once they became aware of the ad:

“At no time has CSIRO made such a statement, and nor do the results of CSIRO research support such a statement.”

At no time has CSIRO made such a statement, and nor do the results of CSIRO research support such a statement.

CSIRO continues to undertake research to better understand the impacts of coal seam gas extraction on groundwater quality and quantity.

CSIRO has stated on the public record that coal seam gas extraction is likely to pose a ‘low risk’ to groundwater quality through contamination. CSIRO has also indicated that groundwater levels will fall as a consequence of coal seam gas extraction. In some places this could see aquifer levels subside by tens of metres for tens of years; in others it is likely to reduce aquifer levels by several metres for several hundred years.

It’s astonishing to consider that this ad was written, proof-read and, presumably, underwent some form of legal approval yet still featured such a blatant lie. The only explanations are outright deception, complete incompetence or an unholy blend of the two.

This ad has since been pulled from online view, but you can read about it at the Sydney Morning Herald or on the CSIRO’s site.

2. Santos TV ad:

“Agriculture and CSG can and do co-exist”

Santos FarmerIn November 2012 Santos ran a TV ad featuring a farmer standing amongst his canola crop, extolling the virtues of CSG’s co-existence with agriculture. It appeared to be quite a compelling story, except to Don Hubbard, the actual owner of the farm, who recognised it as his own. He did not provide permission for Santos or the farmer used in the ad to enter and film on his land.

“There is no way an operating broadacre farm can co-exist with CSG wells”

In a statement Don Hubbard – a fourth generation farmer – told New Matilda:

“There is no way an operating broadacre farm can co-exist with CSG wells and there is no better dryland farming anywhere in the world than here on the Liverpool plains. If governments haven’t the wherewithal to protect that, I despair about the future.”

Santos have since pulled the ad and confirmed it will not run again in its current form.

  • New Matilda: Coal Seam Gas Gets The Wrong Farmer
  • ABC: CSG TV ad riles Liverpool Plains farmers

3. Santos print and TV ads:

“Couldn’t CSG threaten our water supplies?”

Santos Print Ad

Santos Ad: The Sydney Morning Herald 30 October 2012

“CSG is not a threat to our water supply” …on what planet?

Santos’ latest campaign leads with a CSG question and invites the Australian people to find answers at It’s an unconventional advertising approach. The fact that Santos and their advertising agency, KWP!, have boldly chosen to lead with a negative question indicates just how widespread they know the concern about CSG already is.

What’s astonishing is that just two months after the industry was chastised by the CSIRO for distorting their findings on groundwater (as outlined above), the ad goes on to claim as fact that CSG is not a threat to water. Verbatim: “We know water is a significant issue but CSG is not a threat to this essential commodity.” We ask – on what planet?

The reality

Press reports on Santos’ CSG operations in Australia and their effect on the “essential commodity” of water reveal the truth about the dangers posed:

  • The Australian: Coal-seam gas pollution spill went unreported
  • The Australian: New spill at Santos CSG site
  • Sydney Morning Herald: Arsenic and lead found in contaminated water leak at coal seam gas drill site
  • International Business Times: Santos Admits Environmental Errors in CSG Operation
  • Kate Ausburn: What are Santos trying to hide?

Water is not an essential commodity. It’s THE essential commodity. Second on the essential commodity list is truth. And that appears to be in just as much danger from the CSG industry as the first.

Being economical with the truth in regards to the dangers our water supply faces would be unacceptable. With CSG licences now covering so much of the country – including drinking water catchments that supply over four million people in New South Wales – outright deception is nothing short of deplorable, and underlines the need for an immediate freeze on the CSG industry until the facts are established; a science-first approach.

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