Natalie Keene – 28 May 2014

Dear Dr Hawke, 

I am submitting to you my serious concerns about hydraulic fracturing in the Northern Territory. This technique (different to that already used near alice springs by Santos) has an extensive history and high risk of failures and accidents associated across the world. It undoubtably threatens the health of our rivers and aquifers, and thereby our land, our cattle stations, our tourism industry, and our population's health.
 I strongly believe that the risk of fracking is too high and the potential for serious long-term impacts too great to be compensate for the short-term financial benefit to the Northern Territory. My submission is a resounding NO to any exploration for the purposes of finding shale gas, and NO to ANY and ALL hydraulic fracturing techniques anywhere in the Northern Territory.

It is of great concern to me that mining companies use such massive volumes of water, and do not have to answer to the Water Act, meaning mining companies do not need to seek a licence to extract water for fracking.

Industrialization and fragmentation of our pristine bushlands, which are our biggest asset in terms of both biodiversity and providing for the livelihoods of many Territorians is a high risk. There could be  devastating impacts upon sacred sites. These risks are ones that as a Territorian I will not stand by and let happen if mining companies remain free to explore as they currently are doing, and then obtain licences for extraction. I will peacefully resist their occupation of the NT along with many many other concerned citizens and tax payers that may not be writing submissions to this inquiry.

I have VERY VALID reasons for being horrified knowing that the NT Gov is considering licensing for hydraulic fracturing regardless of a massive risk of gases seeping out into our aquifers, waterways and bores. Here in Central Australia we rely on bore water and aquifers, if these get contaminated, as is common place where hydraulic fracturing occurs, the whole of central Australia will become inhabitable.

I have very limited faith in mining companies to protect the health of the surrounding environment and communities. It is not in their interest at all. All too often EIS's are superficial and faulty; how is it in a mining company's interest to, once they've found what they're looking for, do and EIS and find that they should not extract anything. 
I find very good grounds for a complete long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracturing explorations and extraction in the face of a severe lack of information about its potential cumulative environmental, social, health and cultural impacts.
The  impact it could have on our fishing and tourism industries would be devastating, as is occurring regularly where this technique has been employed for a number of years.

I ask the Inquiry to respond to the following questions:

  1. The EPA has stated that there are too many wells to assess individually and that the NT Government does not have the resources to ensure compliance. Will companies be required to undertake environmental impact assessment of each well?
  2. How can the community have confidence in the government to be able to make informed decisions based on the science and not just the hard sell from mining companies?
  3. Have any independent studies been undertaken to properly assess the impacts of fracking in a tropical monsoonal environment?
  4. How will the potential health, social and cultural impacts of fracking be assessed?
  5. Who pays for environment clean up if fracking allows gas to leak into the groundwater and more methane to be released into to our atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions?
  6. Do mining companies have the right to come on to any pastoral lease, private freehold or native title land and frack for gas without free, prior and informed consent by the landholder?
  7. Where landholders do have a right to veto, or to compensation, how is their decision process informed?
  8. What will happen to the millions of litres of contaminated waste water?
  9. Who benefits financially from fracking?
  10. How will mining companies be subsidized or incentivized to frack using taxpayer dollars?
  11. How can people living in remote communities contribute to this Inquiry?
  12. How will commercial interests be represented in this Inquiry?
  13. Will any forums be held to discuss issues raised by the Inquiry?
  14. Will the Inquiry acknowledge that both mining companies and governments have a vested interest in allowing fracking to go ahead despite the risks it presents, and the bias that this presents?
  15. How will the results of this Inquiry be reported and enacted?
  16. Who will ensure mining companies comply with any guidelines formed as a result of this Inquiry?
  17. If I have concerns about fracking activities taking place on my property, who can I contact?

I call on you to make recommendations for:

  1. Ensuring that any fracking development takes place according to the Precautionary Principle for Ecologically Sustainable Development and that this is incorporated into the relevant legislation.
  2. Funding an independent scientific study which properly assesses all impacts (environmental, health, social and cultural) caused by fracking both interstate and overseas to assess the risk to the Territory.
  3. Independent assessment of the climate impact of fracking, including fugitive emissions.
  4. A moratorium on all fracking until all of these risks have been properly assessed by independent scientists.
  5. Assessing and establishing permanent ‘no go’ zones for sensitive areas as reserved blocks under the Petroleum Act (eg. Drinking water catchments, cultural or environmentally significant areas such as sacred sites or protected areas, groundwater recharging zones, food croplands)
  6. Ensuring the onus of proof to demonstrate that fracking is safe for the Territory’s environment and communities is borne by the mining companies rather than landowners, including the collection of baseline data prior to any impact.
  7. An open, transparent process for information to be provided and distributed throughout communities.
  8. Mining companies must obtain free, prior and informed consent from all landholders as per best practice management.
  9. Mining companies undertaking fracking must be required by law to respond to the criteria for environmental impact assessment as per any other significant development.
  10. Water use by mining companies must come under the Water Act so that companies taking water for fracking are required to apply for a water extraction licence.
  11. Proper resourcing of monitoring and compliance bodies such as the EPA and Department of Mines and Energy.
  12. Provisions to ensure that the mining company bears the financial and moral responsibility for any negative impacts caused by fracking.
  13. It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to me that the NT Government ends ALL use of taxpayer dollars as subsidies and incentives to mining companies for the purpose of exploration, extraction and rehabilitation in the NT. No subsidies for these huge companies!

Natalie Keene