Dear Dr. Hawke,
I wish to make the following public submission with regard
to the deep concerns I have pertaining to the practice of hydraulic
fracturing that is potentially to be employed in mining practices
throughout the Northern Territory.
My concerns include:
The history and high risk of failures and accidents
associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) across the world
demonstrates that it threatens the health of our rivers, aquifers and
general environment (including air quality). The practice is so
potentially dangerous it has been totally banned in France.
I believe that the risks associated with fracking are too
high. The potential for serious long-term impacts are too great to be
compensated for the short-term financial benefit to the Northern
The high level of water use by mining companies (which is not controlled by the NT Water Act)
Mining companies do not need to seek a licence to extract water for fracking.
Industrialization and fragmentation of our pristine
bushlands. Our biggest physical asset. They provide in both
biodiversity and provide for the livelihoods of many Territorians.
The impact on the landscape since one shale gas field typically contains many wells connected by pipelines.
The risk of gases seeping out into our aquifers, waterways and bores.
Negative health aspects of the fracking process caused by
the permanent contamination or our air & water supplies.
The lack of responsibility by mining companies to protect
the health of the surrounding environment and communities into the
The lack of information about its potential cumulative environmental, social, health and cultural impacts.
The potentially devastating impact it could have on our fishing and other tourism industries
The potentially devastating impact it could have upon traditional Aboriginal sacred sites
The social impact of industrialisation turning our regional and remote areas into ‘gas factories’.
Given these concerns, I ask the Inquiry to respond to the following questions:
- The Environmental Protection Authority 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
- 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?
- Have any independent studies been undertaken to properly assess the impacts of fracking in a tropical monsoonal environment?
- How will the potential health, social and cultural impacts of fracking be assessed?
- 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 significantly to greenhouse gas
- 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?
- Where landholders do have a right to veto, or to compensation, how is their decision process informed?
- What will happen to the millions of litres of contaminated waste water?
- Who benefits financially from fracking?
- How will mining companies be subsidised or incentivised to frack using taxpayer dollars?
- How can people living in remote communities contribute to this Inquiry?
- How will commercial interests be represented in this Inquiry?
- Will any forums be held to discuss issues raised by the Inquiry?
- 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?
- How will the results of this Inquiry be reported and enacted?
- Who will ensure mining companies comply with any guidelines formed as a result of this Inquiry?
- If I have concerns about fracking activities taking place on my property, who can I contact?
Further, I call on you to make recommendations for:
- Ensuring that any fracking development takes place
according to the Precautionary Principle for Ecologically Sustainable
Development and that this is incorporated into the relevant
- 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
- Independent assessment of the climate impact of fracking, including fugitive emissions.
- A moratorium on all fracking until all of these risks have been properly assessed by independent scientists.
- 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)
- 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.
- An open, transparent process for information to be provided and distributed throughout communities.
- Mining companies must obtain free, prior and informed consent from all landholders as per best practice management.
- Mining companies undertaking fracking must be required
by law to respond to the criteria for environmental impact assessment
as per any other significant development.
- 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.
- Proper resourcing of monitoring and compliance bodies
such as the Environmental Protection Authority and the NT Department of
Mines and Energy.
- Provisions to ensure that the mining company bears the
financial and moral responsibility for any negative impacts caused by
- The NT Government ceases the use of taxpayer dollars to
provide subsidies and incentives to mining companies for the purpose
of exploration, extraction and rehabilitation.
Additionally, I call on you to make
recommendations to amend the legislation in the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly 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 and extensive 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 the 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 Northern Territory, so that a template assessment process is
- require an operator to integrate waste water management
planning into exploration and production as a requirement for
- require that waste water management plans are incorporated into 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 (the Environmental Protection Agency) should
regulate all environmental impacts of fracking, including water
pollution and contamination on the site
- require skilled regulatory officers 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 the monetary value of land to landholders as a result of fracking
My thanks for your consideration of these concerns and
suggestions. I wish you well in your deliberations and trust that the
concerns expressed above are considered and addressed accordingly.