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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Santos knows how to "spin a good yarn" about Coal Seam Gas

Santos has been busy promoting itself and Coal Seam Gas on our TVs recently.

Have you wondered how genuine it all is?
There is this happy farmer, singing the praises of Santos.
He looks genuine enough.
But have a listen to what the Happy Farmer says (in the first video on their webpage) (the one marked "Santos and CSG"): 
"They've been working on my place for a while now"

The following exchange of information started with my good friend Penny, a local farmer, with a strong social conscience and an even stronger love of the land.

After Santos started running their ads on Television, Penny got annoyed and posted the following comment on their website - as follows"

"We object to your ad showing a happy beef farmer. We have a farm and know the danger your gas extraction poses to aquifers, soil and air. The ad is misleading, NO GAS PIPES, TANKS, ROADS, TRUCKS ARE SHOWN. Resale of his farm for agriculture would be difficult."

Jeremy Milne from Santos replied to my friend:

"On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM, Santos Media Centre <> wrote:

Dear Penny,

Thank you for your email - I'm sorry it has taken so long to reply.

The television commercial is an accurate example of our many strong relationships with landholders, and, more broadly, the communities in which we operate.

It shows a landholder from Wallumbilla in Queensland, upon whose land Santos has been operating for about two years. We currently have on that property
three water monitoring bores and five wells that are ready to enter the pilot production phase. In addition, we will be constructing a water holding dam and subsurface pipelines.

The surface infrastructure on the wells is minimal. In production, well heads are about the size of a motor cycle and the area fenced off from livestock and other agriculture activites about the size of an average tool shed. The land around that will be returned to agricultural use. The ad simply demonstrates that farming activity is not adversely impacted by Santos' coal seam gas operations.



Jeremy Milne | Assistant Media Adviser | Public Affairs
Santos Limited, 60 Flinders Street, Adelaide SA 5000
t: +61 8 8116 5529 |  f: +61 8 8116 5429 | m: +61 438 803 549  |

My friend has now replied to Jeremy of Santos:

Dear Jeremy
Can you tell me  
  • a/ exactly what will be in the ponds when the water is returned to the surface ie, a list of the chemicals and how much salt , and where does this water end up ?
  • b/can you guarantee the aquifers won't be endangered with leakage when thousands of bores are drilled through them, and what measures, financial and agricultural are taken to remedy any damage. The money for gas might seem attractive but when our food production is destroyed can we eat dirt ?
  • c/Industrial land, which is what will be left after all the roads, underground pipes, sheds, spillage, gas leakage above and below ground are finished with, is never going to be returned to healthy soils and productive grazing/cropping. The farmer might have a marginally better bank balance but his farm will be unsaleable.
Your company, and others like it, are 'wedging' some farmers, as is happening in productive farmland in the US, so that gradually successful farmers become surrounded and in the end give up the fight.


What I notice about the Santos reply is that they only have monitoring bores, and "five wells that are ready to enter the pilot production phase
." on the farmer's property.

In other words the "Happy Farmer" does not have any production bores on his property. 

That hardly makes him representative of farmers living with coal seam gas wells on farms, pumping out saline water, which is also contaminated with coal chemicals, into holding tanks on their properties. He is also not dealing with the CSG industry lowering the water levels in his bores in the Great Artesian Basin. The whole thing is, of course, a PR Spin. 

Do you remember what he actually said - in the Ad? 
  • "They've been working on my place for a while now"
They may have been working on his land, but they have not yet started producing any gas from his property. 

Nor are they yet dumping onto his land any of the heavily polluted "produced water" - full of salt, and contaminated with chemicals from the coal seam.

Santos specifically states:  "In addition, we will be constructing a water holding dam and subsurface pipelines." 
Note the use of the future tense - "will be constructing..."

In other words, Santos is not yet producing anything on the "Happy Farmer's property"

The "Happy Farmer's testamonial" is meaningless, in my opinion.

If the rumours of the "Happy Farmer" being
well paid by Santos to appear in the ad are true (this was raised as a question in the "draft" Senate Committee transcripts) that further diminishes the credibilty of the advertisement, and of Santos. 
That is also my personal opinion.

I am endebted to Jeremy Milne, Assistant Media Adviser, Public Affairs, Santos Limited, for being so forthcoming in his reply to my friend Penny. 
It is called "shooting yourself in the foot," Jeremy.

I take this opportunity to wish Jeremy all the best in hunting for a new job in the Oil and Gas industry - or if nobody in that industry will have him, then elsewhere in the PR industry.


Flabmeister said...

Excellent post Denis

I have not listened to the whole Santos ad (IMHO mute buttons are the greatest invention of the electronic age)but was taken aback by an ad starting with a gate being locked and turning out to be pro-CSG.

They have usurped the key slogan of the anti gas movement. In Northern NSW "Lock the Gate" is followed by "Keep the out".


Flabmeister said...

Sorry for 2 comments in a row Denis. I have been reading some of the draft (it has more typos than my blog posts) Senate Hansard which you linked. What a sorry, sorry tale is told.

At one point they talk about the cosy relationship between the miners and the politicians. Yesterday Frances heard a program on ABC in which it was stated that one of the key companies in CSG in the Pilliga was headed by one John Anderson: former Leader of the National Party! That isn't mentioned in the wikipedia entry for this 'farmers representative'!!


hellozio said...

thankyou peenny for this info and for writing to santos

Jennie said...

I was incensed and insulted to see such propaganda on the television and I applaud your resistance to these spin doctors.

I live near Roma and we are not happy with the impact of mining at all. Like an insidious cancer, they infiltrate healthy areas and are slowly destroying the land and the water supplies.

We all need to let the urban population know the truth by writing to urban newspapers and talkback radio stations.

I find it emotionally draining to do it but we all must get city people on our side to stop this tragedy.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Jenny
Glad you found my post.
I assume you are in contact with other campaigners. Otherwise it becomes overwhelming - fighting the fight on your own.
Best wishes for you and your colleagues out there.