Awaiting permission to cite author – 27 May 2014

To The Commissioner,

I call on you to make recommendation to amend the laws of the NT in response to the following concerns:

1. We don't know enough about the impact of fracking on our environment or human health, therefore the law must:

  • reflect the precautionary principle in environmental assessment and regulatory control
  • require drilling competency standards to protect safety, health and resource management
  • require collection and publication of base line data on environmental impact

2. The current laws do not allow for community consultation, therefore the law must:

  • require adequate public notice of proposed exploration – one advertisement in a newspaper is not adequate
  • allow a land owner or affected person the right to object and the right to refuse
  • require publication of reasons for decisions and all associated documentation considered by the Minister
  • provide for appeal of a decision to an independent Tribunal
  • allow a third party merits review of decisions
  • regulate access to land by explorers and operators and allow the owner of land to specify terms of access

3. Environmental impact assessment is not adequate, therefore the law must:

  • be amended to provide for environmentally sustainable development as the primary object
  • require environmental impact assessment processes and decisions to be transparent and available for public submission
  • require environmental impact assessment for exploration activity
  • require consideration of environmental differences across the NT, so that a template assessment process is not available
  • require an operator to integrate waste water management planning into exploration and production as a requirement for licensing
  • waste water management plans to incorporate well and field abandonment
  • require the consideration of land use, generally and provide for land use reservations.

4. Regulatory oversight is not effective, therefore the law should be changed to:

  • one agency (EPA) should regulate all environmental impacts of fracking, including water pollution and contamination on the site
  • require skilled regulatory officers should attend sites in person on a regular basis
  • remove intent and knowledge as elements of environmental offences
  • increase penalties and extend statute of limitations for prosecutions
  • apply the Water Act to all mining activity including exploration for fracking, so that water usage is regulated
  • apply the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act to all mining activity, regardless of where it takes place
  • implement structural co-ordination between relevant government agencies

5. The real cost of fracking should be known and recovered from Operators, including:

  • wear and tear on public infrastructure including roads
  • water usage and pollution
  • costs for rehabilitation of wells and fields
  • reduction in value of land to landholders as a result of fracking