The West

Water risk fears in  gas search

Farmers concerned about the effects of a controversial gas exploration technique on water supplies want a State Government study into its environmental impact.

WA Farmers president Dale Park said the group did not necessarily oppose the practice known as fracking or hydraulic fracturing, but he did not believe enough work had been done to study the risks.

His comments came as a CSIRO report found some Mid West residents were concerned by a perceived lack of information about the industry and what widespread fracking would mean for their community and lifestyle.

Fracking, which involves injecting sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rocks and release shale, tight or coal seam gas, has allegedly caused groundwater contamination and ill health in cattle overseas.

The oil and gas industry argues it is a long-standing and safe practice that is tightly regulated in Australia.

In WA, the industry is in its infancy but has huge potential.

A US Department of Energy assessment of shale gas in WA's Canning Basin suggested it could have 229 trillion cubic feet of risked recoverable gas - about five times the size of Chevron's Gorgon field.

Mr Park said the potential size of the industry in WA meant there was a need for more work to look at "what's likely to happen".

He said he would like to see an impact study or something similar.

"We do need more information and the community has to be persuaded that, yes, this is a good thing and it's going to be worthwhile," he said.

But Mines Minister Norman Moore said existing regulations, including requiring companies to disclose what chemicals they put into the ground, were "more than adequate" and he did not believe an impact study was necessary.

"The State Government already has stringent requirements and processes in place for the regulation of the petroleum industry," he said.

A community workshop and subsequent report, similar to the Mid West process, is planned for the north-west of WA.

The West Australian

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