Dear Commissioner Hawke,
The political and economic impulses to develop unconventional and shale gas in the NT are shortsighted and dangerous.
The figures already show that we humans cannot burn most
of our already proven fossil fuel reserves without catastrophic climate
change. So why start new ventures? The focus in the Northern Territory
(and Australia) must be on developing renewable energy.
The notion that unconventional gas is a bridging fuel to a
cleaner future is a carefully constructed illusion of the fossil fuel
industry. Fracking is dirty, energy intensive, threatens groundwater,
communities and ecosystems, and continues to channel investment and
political and social energy into fossil fuel production.
Hydraulic fracking is already proven to be a direct threat
to groundwater systems – and we live in the desert where groundwater
is our only source of water (i.e. life). The aquifers under Central
Australia (Amadeus Basin) and throughout the Territory - collected over
millennia - are a precious resource that must be safeguarded for future
Townships, remote communities and any future settlements
in inland Australia depend on local groundwater. Fracking will threaten
existing communities and preclude future communities.
The Australian people, through their sometime agent, the
Commonwealth Government, have invested billions in remote Australian
settlements. Fracking is an outright attack and destructive force. You
only need to look to the more established communities on our East coast
to be sure fracking brings nothing but heartache to local people.
The impulse to frack Central Australia over the next
decade must be seen for what it is - a last minute grab by
unimaginative government for royalties off the sales of fossil fuels -
which are already environmentally anachronistic and threatening
humanity’s very survival.
I urge you to consider the evidence from communities
already exposed to fracking, here and in the USA, and to have the
courage to say that opening the NT to fracking is against the interests
of ordinary people everywhere, the environment, indigenous cultures and
our collective future.
Surely we Australians can do better? Please attend also to the points below.
I wish to submit the following concerns about hydraulic fracturing in the Northern Territory.
- The history and high risk of failures and accidents
associated with fracking across the world demonstrates that it
threatens the health of our rivers and aquifers.
- I 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.
- The high level of water use by mining companies which
is not controlled by 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.
- 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.
- Health impacts of fracking caused by the contamination of our air and water.
- The lack of responsibility by mining companies to protect the health of the surrounding environment and communities.
- The lack of information about its potential cumulative environmental, social, health and cultural impacts.
- The devastating impact it could have on our fishing and tourism industries
- The devastating impact it could have upon sacred sites
- The social impact of industrialization turning our regional and remote areas into gas factories.
I ask the Inquiry to respond to the following questions:
- 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?
- 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 to greenhouse gas emissions?
- 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 subsidized or incentivized 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?
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 EPA and 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.