David Anthony – 13 May 2014

To The Commissioner,

I would like to take this opportunity to publically voice my opposition to the process of hydraulic fracturing (i.e. ‘fracking’) in the Northern Territory.

Firstly, I am not a committed environmentalist. I am a middle aged, professional, individual who simply has a passion for the outdoors.

I am also an avid international traveller, and have unfortunately seen first hand the environmental destruction caused through mining and logging practices by multi national companies, and the resultant impact on indigenous inhabitants – none of who have ever had the opportunity to publicly show their opposition to these practices as we fortunately do in our country.

Hydraulic fracturing is a mining process surrounded in controversy – that is the side of the mining companies citing their alleged safe work practices and lack of documented proof of the adverse impact of the process on the environment (backed by scientific research) vs. the environmental side who cite alleged evidence of this environmental impact via case studies (also backed by scientific research). In short, there is a lot of information and misinformation (i.e. confusion) on this subject in the public domain.

I was interested to see that in the US, mining companies were not legally required to fully disclose the full chemical composition of the chemical fluid used in fracking. This would seem to be counter productive to their ‘safe practice’ reporting – how can they claim full transparency regarding their process when they do not fully disclose the complete process. This naturally makes it more difficult for the counter argument – how can it be proven that such chemicals are responsible for environmental damage when there is limited information on what these chemicals actually are.

Fortunately, it appears that Government regulation in Australian has required the full disclosure of these chemicals, and has also banned the use of some chemicals used overseas in fracking. While this commendable to a degree, it also highlights that these alleged safe international practices – on which the pro fracking lobby in Australia partly base their argument – are not as environmentally safe as originally reported.

I recently heard public comments by the NT Minister for Mines and Energy on the safety regime in place for existing fracking practices in the central desert of the NT (governed as far as I could see by the NT Petroleum Act 2014). While such safety practices, on paper, may appear to mitigate some public concerns about certain methods of fracking (some are reportedly less of an impact than others i.e. vertical fracking vs. horizontal fracking), it should also be clear that other mining practices in the NT – such as uranium mining – are also governed by legislation with a safety regime. How often were we told that uranium mining was safely regulated in the NT? Did regulation prevent a major accident and contaminant spill at the Ranger uranium mine (reported in some media as possibly the largest such uranium related accident in Australian history) in December 2013? The long-term environmental impact of this spill remains to be seen.

There are multiple case studies from the US regarding the dangers of fracking, including seepage of methane into domestic water supplies, resulting in explosions, flame emanating from household taps, water contamination, and substantial community ill health. Some of the more well known documented cases are:

The impact of fracking on watercourses, both surface and sub surface, is very concerning – to both communities, and to individuals such as myself who rely on remote fresh watercourses for water supply during my wanderings through our unique and diverse countryside.

There is a common theme here that appears to be playing out internationally – that of corporate profit and Government sponsorship versus the long term, and documented, detrimental impact on the environment and public health. At a local level, this is also demonstrated through potential short-term benefits to local community economies versus the same long-term environmental impacts.

In this technological age surely the future lies in sustainable, renewable and cleaner energy sources, not exploitation of diminishing fossil fuel supplies and their resultant enormous negative effect on the environment. Force pumping a toxic chemical laden fluid into our aquifer system IS NOT conducive to a safe environment.