As It Happens

Meet the Aussie MP who set a river on fire to protest fracking

An Australian MP makes a statement against fracking in a dramatic way by setting a local river on fire. But the company doing the drilling says the gas is naturally occurring.
Australian MP Jeremy Buckingham says a fracking operation nearby has allowed methane to leak in to the river. (Youtube/Jeremy Buckingham)

An Australian MP became a viral sensation after he lit a river on fire and blamed a nearby fracking site for contaminating the river.

In hindsight, I may not have done it. It was probably a dangerous thing to do.- Jeremy Buckingham

Jeremy Buckingham tells As It Happens host Carol Off that he was only expecting to see a small flame, not the inferno seen on the video, "It was truly shocking to see a river explode in flame and most alarmingly, maintain a flame."

In the video, the Australian MP for New South Wales lights the Condamine River on fire with a barbecue lighter. The river can be seen bubbling with methane, which Buckingham believes is the result of a fracking operation less than a kilometer away.

"In hindsight, I may not have done it. It was probably a dangerous thing to do," says Buckingham.

Commenters react to the river on fire video (CBC)

"It illustrated our concerns about how dangerous the fracking and coal-seam gas industries are."

There have been reports of methane seeps in the river since 2012, triggering a series of investigations.

A report by Norwest Corporation, a scientific analysis firm, outlined several scenarios that could be contributing to the bubbling in the river. These included natural events such as drought and the recharging of aquifers after floods.

Human activity such as coal-seam gas operations and water bore drilling were the other possible contributing factors.

Buckingham is calling for the gas industry to halt fracking in Australia until the source of the methane can be determined.

The company that is responsible for the fracking, Origin Energy issued a statement suggesting that the methane leak is probably a naturally occurring phenomena in the area. A statement backed by the energy regulator, The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Buckingham is quick to dismiss anything from the company or CSIRO, who he says is too chummy with the corporations. "They're actually funded by the gas industry," he says.

Buckingham goes on to say they have historical records as well as anecdotal evidence from farmers in the area that the methane was not there before.

"It would be a remarkable coincidence if it had nothing to do with the fracking industry."

With files from CBC News


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