“A terrible terrible day.” George Bender, CSG (CBM) impacted farmer, Darling Downs, Queensland, killed himself. “Not only does this community have to live with this scourge of CSG coal seam gas mining on a daily and nightly basis, now they have to deal with one of their most-respected and most-loved community members taking his life.”

February 2, 1968

Poem by Wendell Berry during the darkest days of the Vietnam War.

In the darkness of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

George Bender, Late Hopeland farmer, Darling Downs, Queensland Australia

George Bender by one of his two dried up water bores after CSG (CBM). George fought Origin Energy for 10 years to prevent 18 wells on his land.

MUST LISTEN: Senator Glenn Lazarus talks to Alan Jones about the suicide of cotton farmer George Bender 2GB | 873 AM | Sydney NSW AUSTRALIA

Chinchilla cotton farmer George Bender has committed suicide after the loss of two of his precious underground water bores. The bores have been sucked dry by the activities of the coal seam gas industry and the gas companies are supposed to make good the loss. Not content with taking his water the gas companies also want to put up to 18 gas wells on George’s land. The planned wells will be placed throughout his property and he fears they will interfere with the running of his farm. Automated machinery used in the production of the cotton will need to be repeatedly recalibrated to cater for the adhoc placement of the wells meaning potential economic loss and production downtime. George said the cards seemed stacked in favour of the resources industry with landholders left to suffer the impacts of coal seam gas exploration and mining with little recourse and few rights. “You’ve got to agree to their terms or else. I just reckon its just all one sided for the resources companies,” George said. “It will completely interfere with the running of the property but that doesn’t seem to matter as long as they get wells in and get the gas out of the ground, that’s what matters. “We’ll be living in a gas field, it’s as simple as that.”

“Not a government doing a thing about it … Gutless government.”

Just like in Alberta, the companies are required to make good all and any losses or contamination of water in CBM fields, but none do, and regulators and governments do nothing to make them.

[Soon as the many water wells went bad in Alberta after the new frac experiments began, industry pushed for deregulation to remove protections for Albertans and our water]

Senator Glenn Lazarus calls for CSG halt after farmer George Bender’s death by Jorge Branco, October 15, 2015, Sydney Morning Herald
The death of a well-respected Queensland farmer has sparked renewed calls for changes to coal seam gas mining laws and a royal commission into the industry.

George Bender, one of the first farmers to say no to CSG, took his own life on Wednesday night after a 10-year fight to keep Origin Energy off his 2000-acre farm in Hopeland, just south of Chinchilla.

The death prompted Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus to call for a freeze on the controversial mining practice.

He told Macquarie Radio the industry was “bullying”, “berating” and “threatening” farmers in the area daily.

“Not only does this community have to live with the scourge of CSG coal seam gas mining on a daily and nightly basis, now they have to deal with one of their most-respected and well-loved community members taking his life,” he said.

Origin Energy issued a statement offering its sincere apologies to the Bender family.

“We are saddened to hear about George’s passing today,” it read.

“Out of respect for the family at this difficult time, we are not making any further comment.”

Senator Lazarus repeated his calls for a royal commission into the human impacts of CSG mining and a resource ombudsman to give farmers somewhere to go.

“What really gets me so frustrated is the governments of the day just don’t care what they’re doing to Australians and Queenslanders that are just honest, hard-working people that want to work the land.

“They’ve given them no rights to say ‘no’ and they just don’t care that these people are living in an absolute nightmare and they don’t care because these governments are being given donations.”

Mr Bender, a 68-year-old cotton farmer who also grew grains and kept pigs, had also reportedly been affected by the nearby Linc Energy coal gasification plant.

The president of anti-CSG group Lock the Gate, Drew Hutton, said Mr Bender complained to the government about pollution from the plant for years before it charged the company with “wilful environmental damage” in June.

He said two of the farmer’s water bores had dried up due to CSG mining on neighbouring properties and Origin Energy had threatened to take him to the Land Court if he didn’t let them put another 18 wells on his land.

“He’s a huge loss. He was a lovely man, a very good farmer and he was one of the earliest farmers out there to lock his gate,” Mr Hutton said.

“Even before we had a Lock the Gate he locked his gate on the coal seam gas miners.”

Mr Hutton called on the government to introduce legislation to allow farmers to say no to CSG mines on their land.

Senator Lazarus said Mr Bender’s death shouldn’t be in vain and called for a police investigation.

“I think criminal charges could be laid,” he said.

“We’re talking about manslaughter here. He was bullied to death, this well-respected man.

“The government has blood on their hands and it was a senseless death.” [Emphasis added]

Farmer’s death prompts senator Glenn Lazarus to renew call for CSG mining halt by ABC News, October 15, 2015
A farmer’s suicide in his home state has prompted Queensland senator Glenn Lazarus to demand a halt to coal seam gas (CSG) mining projects until the human impacts can be established.

Western Downs landholder George Bender took his life on Wednesday.

He was involved in a long-running dispute with resources companies, one of which reportedly wanted to put 18 wells on his farm near Chinchilla.

In an interview on Macquarie Radio, independent senator Lazarus said he had known Mr Bender for some time and was “gutted” by his death.

“Not only does this community have to live with this scourge of CSG coal seam gas mining on a daily and nightly basis, now they have to deal with one of their most-respected and most-loved community members taking his life.

“What really gets me so frustrated is the governments of the day just don’t care what they’re doing to Australians and Queenslanders … just honest hard-working people that want to work the land.

“They’ve given them no rights to say ‘no’ and they just don’t care that these people are living in an absolute nightmare and they don’t care because these governments are being given donations.”

Senator Lazarus said the situation had become “un-Australian”.

“These mining companies are bullying, they’re berating, they’re threatening these people on a daily basis,” he said.

“They go on … until they break them.

“We’ve brought these hard-working, hard men to tears they’re just so frustrated they have nowhere to go, they have no-one to back them up.”

List of demands

Senator Lazarus said he did not want Mr Bender’s life to have been in vain and had come up with a list of demands to put to government and resources companies.

“I need a royal commission into the human impacts of CSG mining which I’ve been calling for for months and months now.

“They [landholders] don’t have anywhere to go – we need a resource ombudsman to be established so they have somewhere to go. [Like the ombudsman in Alberta who refuses to help until we’ve exhausted all avenues? How many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to get somewhere in Canada’s legal system defines “exhausted?”]

“And let’s just take a deep breath and pause further CSG mining projects until we can establish the human and environmental impacts.”

Senator Lazarus said he would be putting his calls to Federal Parliament and would be knocking on the door of newly appointed Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg. [Emphasis added]

MUST WATCH 2014 09 23: Voices from the Gaslands – George’s story

[Refer also to:

2015 08 10: Linc Energy’s Massive Frac’d Land Time Bomb (like Encana’s at Rosebud?), “Executives could face the prospect of jail. Damage has been going on for years.” Secret report reveals more than 300 sq km of severe contamination to groundwater, prime agricultural land and air near Chinchilla, SE Queensland

2015 08 10 SE Queensland Dept map showing massive extent of contamination by Linc Energy south Chinchilla, 300 sq km area landowners told not to dig

2015 03 03: Queensland regulator: gases near Chinchilla might be from Linc Energy coal gasification plant, Preliminary tests on private properties showed carbon monoxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide yet Queensland Health says “no health risks to landowners” (Reality check: the gases might kill you or ignite)

Queensland landholders claim secrecy over experimental coal gasification plant by Mark Solomons and Mark Willacy, April 16, 2014, ABC News

Landholders on Queensland’s Darling Downs say they are being kept in the dark about the nature of serious environmental harm allegedly caused by an experimental coal gasification plant.

Last week the Queensland Government filed four criminal charges of irreversible or “high impact” harm relating to the plant against resources company Linc Energy.

It emerged the state’s environment department began investigating suspected environmental breaches nine months ago, but landholders told the ABC that the first they had heard of it was last Friday.

Linc Energy faces four charges of “wilfully and unlawfully” causing serious harm, with the company facing fines of more than $2 million for each offence.

The company rejected the charges as “misguided”.

The ABC understands one of the charges related to a so-called overburden fracture, a crack in the layers of rock and soil that sit above the coal seam.

In some cases this can lead to the escape of gases into the air or allow groundwater into the cavity.

2014 Darling Downs, Australia farmer George Bender

Farmer George Bender

Cropping and livestock farmer George Bender said he had been told there was no “immediate” threat, but wanted this clarified. “Immediate threat, well that’s probably this week, tomorrow or the next day, but what happens in six weeks’ time or six months’ time?” he said.

Mr Bender and other locals previously complained about a foul odour coming from the plant.

He said that prior to the State Government initiating its investigation last year, one of its officials reassured him about the plant.

“Only six weeks before that, the environment guy was down to us and said everything was OK. So I don’t know what’s happened there,” he said.

“Whether they knew about it but didn’t let on, or the Government knew about it… it seems a bit secret to me.”

Linc Energy denies Environment Department’s charges

Linc Energy said it would defend against the allegations.

It told the ABC it had complied with its environmental authority at the site and that it was not aware of “any environmental harm beyond the limits of its operating licence”.

It said the allegations, which “remain un-particularised by the department” related to older technology no longer in use.

Linc said it chose the site for its research and development facility, which it began decommissioning in October, because of the “strong and stable geological structures at Chinchilla”.

Underground coal gasification (UCG) is a controversial technique involving the injecting of oxygen and water into cavities in a coal seam to produce gas that is used to generate power.

Environmental activist Drew Hutton, who has campaigned against the technology, said it “should be banned because it’s potentially highly polluting”.

Mr Hutton said there had already been a prosecution of another UCG company, Cougar Energy, over the polluting of a local aquifer at Kingaroy in Queensland.

“It has an appalling record,” he said.

Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown said UCG was “a monster in the making” unless it was done properly.

He criticised the State Government for telling locals about the problems “at five minutes past five on a Friday”.

“Landholders should have been notified immediately,” he said.

The Queensland Government was strongly criticised by the state’s Auditor-General this month over failures in supervision, monitoring and enforcement of environmental conditions placed on resources projects.

In a report, the Auditor-General found the Government was exposing the environment to unnecessary harm and taxpayers to huge liabilities because of outdated computer systems and communications failures.

Linc Energy has been one of the biggest donors to the governing Queensland Liberal National Party, giving more than $100,000 since 2012.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Andrew Powell said it would be inappropriate for him to comment as the matter was before the courts.

The Linc Energy case is due to be heard in the Chinchilla Magistrates Court on May 28. [Emphasis added]

2013 03 09: Radon gas leaks in coalbed methane fields in Australia spark call for probe

2012: Coal gas stream blaze still alight west of Dalby

“What happened is no different from what’s happening on much of the western downs,” he said. “All this gas is coming up through the ground because of the depressurisation of the coal seam by the coal seam gas industry. “It allows methane to migrate wherever it can to find a pathway, through cracks in the ground and even into the Condamine River.”

2012: Coal Seam Gas [Coal Bed Methane] in Northern Rivers / New South Wales and Queensland

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.” …

“As a rural area is industrialized, the psychological impact of such destruction of property, lifestyle, prospects results in predictable emotional responses. Many suffer anxiety, breakdown, depression, some suicide.

And they simply say, ‘I’m going down the back to fix the fence.’

And they don’t come back, they can’t handle it.”

2011 08 03: Australian Petroleum Association: Coal seam damage to water inevitable

“Drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers,” said the spokesman, Ross Dunn. “The intent of saying that is to make it clear that we have never shied away from the fact that there will be impacts on aquifers,” Mr Dunn said.


2011 08 27: sunset, ernst property, rosebud, alberta

Thank you George for your heart and saying “No!”

My heart will always bleed with yours

and for our frac’d water.

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.