In­quiry backs frack­ing

The Australian Energy Review - - CONTENTS - EL­IZ­A­BETH FABRI NORTH­ERN TER­RI­TORY

THE North­ern Ter­ri­tory Gov­ern­ment will soon make a de­ci­sion on whether to lift a mora­to­rium on hy­draulic frack­ing, fol­low­ing the re­lease of a 15-month in­de­pen­dent in­quiry that de­ter­mined risks can be man­aged through ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion. Hy­draulic frack­ing — which is cur­rently pro­hib­ited in Vic­to­ria and the sub­ject of a mora­to­rium in Tas­ma­nia, NSW and WA — has been an is­sue of con­tention in the NT for some time, with the last three Gov­ern­ments com­mis­sion­ing re­views and in­quiries into the mat­ter. In Septem­ber 2016, North­ern Ter­ri­tory chief min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner in­tro­duced a mora­to­rium on frack­ing and ap­pointed the in­de­pen­dent in­quiry, led by NSW Land and En­vi­ron­ment Court judge Jus­tice Rachel Pep­per. Jus­tice Pep­per said the re­port put for­ward 135 rec­om­men­da­tions to mit­i­gate iden­ti­fied risks if the Gov­ern­ment lifts the mora­to­rium. “No in­dus­try is with­out risk, and any on­shore shale gas in­dus­try is no ex­cep­tion, how­ever, it is the panel’s opin­ion that if all of the rec­om­men­da­tions are im­ple­mented, the iden­ti­fied risks as­so­ci­ated with any on­shore shale gas in­dus­try can be mit­i­gated or re­duced to an ac­cept­able level, and in some cases, the risks can be elim­i­nated,” Jus­tice Pep­per said. “The de­ci­sion whether or not to re­tain the ban on hy­draulic frac­tur­ing in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion that rests with the Gov­ern­ment alone.” Jus­tice Pep­per said the in­quiry’s scope was much broader than pre­vi­ous re­ports, and in­cluded 52 com­mu­nity fo­rums, 151 pub­lic hear­ings, 31 com­mu­nity up­dates and 1257 writ­ten sub­mis­sions. Mr Gun­ner said the Gov­ern­ment will now “care­fully con­sider the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions and take as long as is needed to make the right de­ci­sion” for the Ter­ri­tory. “Once the fi­nal re­port has been care­fully con­sid­ered we will do what we have al­ways promised Ter­ri­to­ri­ans - either ban frack­ing in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory or al­low it in highly reg­u­lated cir­cum­stances in tightly pre­scribed ar­eas,” Mr Gun­ner said. “We will not put at risk ex­ist­ing fish­ing, farm­ing, tourism and cat­tle jobs for the pos­si­bil­ity of jobs from frack­ing.” Aus­tralian Petroleum Pro­duc­tion & Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion (APPEA) North­ern Ter­ri­tory di­rec­tor Matthew Do­man said the fi­nal re­port “de­bunked many of the myths spread by ac­tivists op­posed to on­shore gas de­vel­op­ment”. “There is no rea­son the Ter­ri­tory can­not man­age the safe, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of its con­sid­er­able nat­u­ral gas re­sources,” Mr Do­man said. “APPEA’S mem­ber com­pa­nies stand ready to in­vest bil­lions of dol­lars in new projects in the Ter­ri­tory if the in­dus­try is al­lowed to re­sume ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­ity.” Je­mena, was one of the com­pa­nies ready to push for­ward new de­vel­op­ments in the Ter­ri­tory. In a Fe­bru­ary sub­mis­sion to the Frack­ing In­quiry, Je­mena ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment An­toon Boey said the com­pany had al­ready in­vested sig­nif­i­cantly in its North­ern Gas Pipe­line (NGP) un­der con­struc­tion, but was pre­pared to “in­vest sig­nif­i­cantly more cap­i­tal” in ex­tend­ing and ex­pand­ing the NGP if on­shore gas can be com­mer­cialised. “The project is es­ti­mated to cost around $3-4 bil­lion and could cre­ate around 4000 new jobs across North­ern Aus­tralia,” Mr Boey said. “Any de­lay to pro­gress­ing the ex­plo­ration of [the Ter­ri­tory’s] on­shore gas re­sources in­creases the risk that the NT will be un­able to cap­i­talise on the need for new gas sup­ply in the east coast mar­ket.”

“The de­ci­sion whether or not to re­tain the ban on hy­draulic frac­tur­ing in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion that rests with the Gov­ern­ment alone.”

Im­age: APPEA.

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