Australia divided on fracking process

NT view - webSTATE and local governments across Australia remain divided on the use of fracking for unconventional gas exploration, with mixed results emerging from three inquiries in February.

The Northern Territory green-lit the controversial process following a nine-month review by Dr Allan Hawke that found “no justification whatsoever” for a moratorium on fracking.

In his 200-page report, tabled in the NT Parliament, Dr Hawke made six recommendations to manage the environmental risks of the process, including a “robust regulatory regime” and a restructure of the Northern Territory Environment Assessment Act.

NT Mines and Energy minister Dave Tollner said the report showed that “fracking can take place safely in the Northern Territory, provided the appropriate regulatory and monitoring regime [is] in place to allay community concern”.

APPEA NT director Steven Gerhardy said the report appeared to offer a “sensible blueprint” for the safe and responsible development of an emerging industry, and called for an end to fracking scare campaigns.

“Dr Hawke has carefully considered the evidence, he has listened to all sides of the debate and he has concluded that with good operator practice and regulation, hydraulic fracturing can be done safely,” Mr Gerhardy said.

“Shale has the potential to provide much-needed jobs, investment and improved infrastructure in remote and regional areas.

“Territorians can draw confidence from this report and from the fact that hydraulic fracturing has already been performed on more than 30 wells in the Territory since the 1970s without incident.”

The Broome Shire Council also showed its support by voting down a bid to ban fracking for shale in the region.

The council voted against a motion to declare a ‘no fracking zone’ in the Canning Basin, east of Broome –where Buru Energy plans to explore for shale –stating that the approvals process rested with the state.

Broome councillor Anne Poelina announced her resignation shortly after the decision, stating that her alternative motion to fracking had not been debated in the chamber.

Conversely, the Tasmanian Government has extended its fracking ban for another five years, citing uncertainty about its potentially negative impacts..

Despite having a regulatory framework in place, the government expressed concern about the practice relating to agriculture, branding and markets as well as public and environmental health, community cohesion and landowner engagement.

“There is considerable concern around the potential negative impacts of fracking, particularly within our rural communities and farming families who rely so heavily on our global reputation for producing premium and safe products,” Primary Industries and Water minister Jeremy Rockliff said.

“It is also clear that there is considerable concern for landowners’ rights and public and environmental health.”

Public perception of fracking could harm the state’s reputation as a producer of safe, clean and premium food and products, with potential hydrocarbon resources overlapping with important agricultural areas, the government stated.

Uncertainty surrounding the state’s CSG resources was also highlighted, as “the risks cannot be eliminated entirely due in part to the uncertainty of being able to fully define the geological, hydrological and hydrogeological characteristics of a particular region”.

“Fracking in Tasmania is a possibility, not a probability,” the government stated.

“It is highly unlikely that Tasmania has economically viable coal seam gas resources. Whether there are economically viable unconventional hydrocarbon resources in Tasmania, e.g. shale gas or petroleum, is uncertain and can only be determined through further private sector exploration.”

Despite the ban, the government would continue to support exploration activities for hydrocarbons.

It originally introduced a 12-month moratorium on fracking to review its effects, which was completed in February.

The new policy will begin 26 March and continue until March 2020.