A US rancher who featured in the acclaimed documentary Gasland – famous for scenes of residents lighting their tap water on fire – has urged local farmers to resist the “invasion” of coal seam gas company Santos.
John Fenton, from Pavillion in the state of Wyoming, will speak at a forum in Narrabri tonight about his family’s horrific experience with coal seam gas drilling on their farm.
The 41-year-old is on a three-week tour of Australia to encourage landholders and the wider community to fight against the spread of coal seam gas operations, including Santos’s plans to drill 850 wells in the Pilliga.
“You got to keep these guys out because if you get this on your farm, it will never, ever be the same as it was,” he said.
“But this affects everybody equally. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a farmer or you live in town ... if you’ve got bad water and bad air, it poisons everybody.”
In 2008, the US Environment Protection Agency warned Mr Fenton not to drink the water on his property after methane leaks from the 24 gas wells on his property contaminated his groundwater supply.
So methane-ridden is the water that not only must they have their drinking water trucked in, they also need to ventilate the house after showering to ensure the gas build-up does not spark an explosion.
Mr Fenton, who is not being paid for his appearances but was flown out by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham and Greens senator Larissa Waters, with the help of Lock the Gate Alliance, has become a prominent environmental activist.
“The purpose of my visit is to try to inform the Australian people about what has happened in our area and in our country because a lot of the propaganda I see the gas industry using over here is the same thing they were telling us 10 to 15 years ago,” he said.
“We’ve now seen the results and what’s happening and what they’re saying are two entirely different things.
“Our farm looks more like an oil and gas refinery than a farm ... and then we started seeing the impacts on our water and our air, which are the ones that really get you because without water, we are finished.”
Mr Fenton, together with local farmer Jeff Carolan and Queensland producer Rob McCreath, will appear at the Crossing Theatre, Narrabri from 7pm.