The West

Mines Minister Norman Moore has been accused of stifling debate on the controversial gas exploration technique known as fracking after intervening to pull an environmentalist speaker from the line-up of two public forums.

Mr Moore threatened to stop Department of Mines representatives from speaking at the Dongara and Eneabba forums in June if Doctors for the Environment WA chairman George Crisp was also allowed to speak.

The WA Nationals organised the meetings to educate the Mid West community about the hydraulic fracturing process and MLC Phil Gardiner invited Dr Crisp to speak.

Dr Crisp - who was not a Greens candidate at the time but is now the party's nominee for the seat of Nedlands at next year's State election - was later removed from the line-up. Dr Crisp said the result was a "one-sided, pro-industry position" presented at the forums, which he attended as an audience member.

Mr Moore said he had supported department officers taking part in the forums but did not believe it was appropriate to put them in a situation where there was likely to be "conflict" between groups.

"These meetings were co- ordinated by the Nationals in response to concerns expressed by the local community seeking impartial, technical and scientific advice as opposed to inaccurate information being distributed by various green groups in the region," he said.

"I did not consider it appropriate for officers to be involved in meetings where there was likely to be conflict between groups which would reduce the opportunity for local people to get the factual information they were requesting. Green groups are at liberty to organise public forums of their own if they want to do so."

Mr Gardiner said the forums were a success, with Dr Crisp able to take part in the debate as a member of the audience.

Fracking involves injecting a combination of oil, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rocks and release shale, tight or coal seam gas.

Proponents say it is a safe and tightly regulated practice. Opponents say not enough work has been done studying the likely effects on the environment, especially the potential for groundwater contamination.

'Green groups are at liberty to organise public forums of their own.' " Mines Minister *Norman Moore *

The West Australian

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