An Australian elected official set fire to a river in Queensland this weekend in an act of protest against the coal seam gas industry, stating that fracking causes methane to seep into the river.
In a video posted to his official Facebook page, Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham can be seen leaning over the side of an aluminum boat on the Condamine River, touching a barbecue lighter to the water and setting it instantly ablaze.
Buckingham recoils. "A river on fire! Don't let it burn the boat."
"This is the future of Australia if we do not stop the frackers, who want to spread across all states and territories," Buckingham says in the video, which subsequently went viral, hitting 3.3 million views by Monday morning. "The fracking [is] just a kilometer [.62 miles] away, methane coming up and now the river is alight."
The flames reportedly took an hour to die out.
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Despite the flammability of the water, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has claimed that there is "no apparent safety risk in the immediate area of the seeps" and "no apparent evidence of environmental harm that can be attributed to the present gas seeps."
It has not been proven one way or the other whether the nearby fracking is the explicit cause of the methane gas in the river—but the connection is clear to Buckingham, who noted to the Guardian Australia on Sunday, "It would be the most remarkable coincidence if the very thing that we warned would happen has happened in the middle of a gas field and it's totally unrelated."
The Guardian writes:
The CSIRO [Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization] began studying methane seeps in 2012 in the Condamine river, which is near Chinchilla, about 300km west of Brisbane, after locals reported seeing bubbles. The gas is most evident at an area called Pumphole where the video was filmed. It is just over 5km from the gas field but there is a gas well within 900m, according to Buckingham.
"The CSIRO might not have the causation yet but it is a remarkable correlation that within 12 months that the marked expansion of that gas field [in 2011] the river closest to that gas field starts bubbling," Buckingham said. "That particular arm of the CSIRO is funded by the industry and I believe that they are making excuses for the industry that they have let off the leash."