Fracking regulations, Take 2? No, it's a wrap.


p2315-Dr-Tina-Hunter-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
There was talk of the new NT Petroleum (Environment) Regulations being reviewed just a day after being announced, to consider the requirement for fracking wells to be inspected by third party experts.
This provision, absent from the regulations announced yesterday, had been recommended by energy law expert Tina Hunter, who advises the NT Government and who also spoke at the Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting in Alice Springs in March (photo above left).
Mines Minister David Tollner referred to Dr Hunter in a Letter to the Editor in April and said the “NT Government remains committed to implementing a robust regulatory regime for onshore oil and gas activities”.
But then, just before knock-off time today, Dr Hunter’s recommendations got the heave-ho.
A media statement made today from Mr Tollner said: “The Schedule of Onshore Petroleum Exploration and Production Requirements to the Petroleum Act sets out specific requirements and standards for construction and decommissioning of wells. The Minister may require validation of design and verification of well construction by an independent validator.”
Note the  word “may”.
This is what Dr Hunter said in her independent review of the draft petroleum regulations: “Well inspection by an independent certified third party inspector should be a mandatory component of the regulatory regime for drilling, and should be considered during the drafting of the relevant regulations.”
Meanwhile Naomi Hogan, from the Lock the Gate Alliance, earlier this week called the regulations “a rush job that fails well integrity test” and “the regulations are so vague they do not even mention the words ‘shale’ or ‘gas’. It’s left up to the company to decide what the best approach to fracking is.
“The regulations give all the power to the Mines Minister to decide on the acceptable risk from fracking.”
According to Mr Tollner’s media statement made yesterday all environmental risks and impacts are identified and reduced to an “acceptable level and a level that is as low as reasonably practicable” and environmental impacts must be at levels “that are both acceptable and as low as reasonably practicable”.
p22100-David-TollnerAlthough Mr Tollner (at right) doesn’t say so, it is clear that it’s the Minister, finally, who judges what is acceptable, reasonable and practicable.
Dr Hunter is a Reader in Energy Law and the co-director of the Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law.
She was the inaugural director of the Centre for International Minerals and Energy Law at the University of Queensland.
She teaches and researches in the areas of national and international petroleum law, unconventional petroleum regulation, Arctic petroleum law and governance, international investment protection in the energy sector, and resources law and policy.
In addition to teaching at the University of Aberdeen, Dr Hunter has previous or ongoing teaching appointments in Norway, Australia, Iceland and Russia.
She has been a visiting scholar at the University of Bergen, the University of Aberdeen, Murdoch University, and the University of Texas Austin.
Dr Hunter has presented at over fifty conferences on three continents.
The Alice Springs News Online has asked her for comment on the rejection of her recommendation by the NT Government.
UPDATE July 14:
Professor Tina Hunter emailed today: “The requirements for monitoring will be part of the resource management and administration regs that are coming next.”


  1. When will sanity prevail? The greedy “frackers” have no idea what they are doing to our precious land and its underground resources.
    Until you know exactly what you are doing, don’t do it.
    This is the biggest single environmental issue confronting Australia today and it deserves to polarise the nation. Yes or No.
    There’s no middle ground at this stage.
    I hope Nigel Scullion, Malandirri McCarthy,Warren Snowdon and Luke Gosling are listening and that all voters for the impending NT election demand to be heard.

  2. Whether you are against fracking or think it’s wonderful, you have to honestly ask yourself a couple of fairly simple questions.
    Is Dopey Dave qualified to pass considered judgment on the feasibility or otherwise of a fracking field? Is Ron Kelly? Is Kelly likely to advise Tollner he has made a wrong decision? Is any of Kelly’s staff likely to provide frank and fearless advice to their CEO this close to an election? If they do, will he listen to them?
    Perhaps even more distressingly, do any of Gunner’s numbnuts have the qualifications or even the intelligence to handle the matter as it should be?
    I have unfortunately had dealings with that side of the fence today and take it from me, Michael will make Adam look like the second coming of the Lord.
    I am not smart enough to know if fracking is safe or not. I am absolutely positive I have been lied to about it, from both sides of the fence.
    I am also absolutely certain the so-called “moratorium” on the issue has more to do with getting votes than caring for the environment and will be in effect for perhaps days, not even weeks.
    Ted, you are entirely right. If you’re not sure, don’t do it. The first voice of reason I have heard in months.
    We deserve better.

  3. So, let’s have some facts instead of a continuation of the fear mongering tactics being applied by those responsible for the ongoing anti fracking campaign in the Territory driving Territorians to join them out of fear not out of fact.
    When the Country Liberals came to office 95% of the Territory’s land mass was available for gas exploration.
    In listening to you the public concerns, the Territory Government has removed 85% of that land from availability!
    • No, you cannot drill in urban living areas including rural residential areas.
    • No, you cannot drill in areas of intensive agriculture.
    • No, you cannot drill in areas of high ecological value.
    • No, you cannot drill in areas deemed to be sacred or of cultural significance.
    • No, you cannot drill in areas that contain assets of strategic importance to nearby residential areas
    • No, you cannot drill in areas with high potential for other forms of development such as tourism.
    • No, you cannot go onto a property to drill without the owner’s consent.
    • No, coal seam fracking! None proposed and would not be supported if it were (the kind of fracking that is so controversial in NSW and Queensland because it is shallow and in the water table.)
    Mining and drilling of all kinds have now been made subject to the Water Act. This was not previously the case. Now all activity involving water use is subject to the act.
    On Aboriginal Land TOs have the right of veto over any exploration.
    That leaves us with drilling and fracking for conventional gas in a few known areas of the Territory near Katherine and South East of Alice in the Simpson.
    The conventional gas drilling has also extended to unconventional or tight gas extraction this is where the gas is trapped in tight rock which needs to be fractured to allow it to escape into the drill hole.
    This activity is taking place between three and four kilometres underground it is every bit as safe or safer than other forms of mining activity and vastly less disruptive than mining we accept without question.
    The Territory Government has just introduced a regulatory regime, that is regarded by experts from around the world as World’s Best Practice, to watch over any drilling and extraction that does take place.
    Sure the legislation says the Minister May or May Not!
    Of course any government can change legislation whenever they choose. That’s a fact of life but governments generally reflect the people’s wishes or they get kicked in favour of one that does.
    Why do you suppose this government has gone to such lengths to allay your concerns? Why – because they are listening!
    So, I believe any reasonable sensible Territorian should be able to see that our government has gone to extraordinary lengths to allay concerns around fracking.
    So why not ban it altogether you might ask?
    Because as responsible Territorians we have to consider all sides of the equation and take a balanced view, we need to consider that:
    • Our electricity is generated by gas.
    • Gas is a cheap fuel that does, and will into the future, allow us to keep electricity costs to a minimum.
    • Gas is a clean fuel 50% cleaner than coal.
    We have enormous quantities of it with the potential to earn enormous wealth for Territorians.
    This wealth in turn creates jobs potentially over hundreds of years.
    Gas puts wealth in the hands of Territorians through the payment of royalties as it has already been doing for some 30 years.
    Do we want to give that up?
    I call on Territorians to take a step back from the fear-mongering fact distorting campaign that has been run here by interstaters funded from questionable sources and in reality pushing agendas that don’t give a dam about you or me or our welfare.
    Don’t be taken in by those who insult your intelligence with a load of fear-mongering lies, take the time to do a bit of research as I have done, I’m sure you will reach a balanced approach that has the best interest of the Territory and our economy at heart.
    Remember, it’s nothing new. We’ve been doing this for many years. Don’t be frightened out of an enormous employment and future creating opportunity for Territorians by untruthful fear-mongering tactics put about by fly in fly out protesters of extremely questionable motive.

  4. @ Peter – I do like your closing sentence.
    We can transition to safer, renewable energy opportunities that will provide employment and power generation. The debate about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing won’t need to continue once that transition is effected. Clean energy production is the goal. We can invest our time, energy and resources into an arena that is safe and will provide us with what we need well into the future.
    Developing The Solar Centre in Alice Springs as part of a better, brighter future provides a host of possibilities. In partnership, CDU, Desert Knowledge Australia, the Centre for Appropriate Technology and others could evolve solar certified VET programs. We could become a global centre of excellence with regard to the research and development of the renewable sector attracting scholars from around the world to come and carry out their work here.
    Let’s focus on some vision for the future and develop plans around those. It’s all possible if industry commitment in partnership with governments and the community have the courage to make it so. Let’s work together with each other, not in opposition, to help create and reinforce the kind of town and region so many people want to see thrive into the next decade and beyond.
    I welcome people’s input to the discussion.
    Phil Walcott
    Independent candidate for Braitling

  5. @ Steve Brown: Quote “Don’t be taken in by those who insult your intelligence with a load of fear-mongering lies, take the time to do a bit of research as I have done.” End of Quote.
    Tanks for your concerns, but I believe my intelligence permits me to see where the lies are, and not only I do research, but I balance with my experiences.
    1. In Africa I did my studies and work for a huge petroleum company … later I cried when I saw what they had done to our pristine beaches.
    2. In France I studied nuclear science and with a lot of students we wear the slogan: ” Inactive today, radioactive tomorrow.”
    3. In the Northern Territory my work with the Department of Mines and Energy helped me to understand that fracking in the region of Katherine is not a good idea.
    You speak of “an enormous employment and future creating opportunity for Territorians”.
    Fracking creates jobs.
    That’s the key element of the oil and gas industry argument for permitting the controversial drilling practice.
    And it’s become the industry’s trump card as the debate rages — among policymakers and scientists — over whether fracking is safe for the people and environment around it.
    You speak of “an enormous employment and future creating opportunity for Territorians”.
    1. Could you put some figures on this statement?
    2. How could you be certain it will be only for Territorians (define Territorian).
    What warranty will be put into place that locals will be hired rather than out-of-towners?

  6. @ “Peter”: I wonder if you realise your own contradictions.
    You call the Treasurer “Dopey Dave” from anonymity and admit that you are “not smart enough” to understand what you accuse him of.
    Then you proceed to list six “fairly simple questions” and end by slandering the Opposition.
    Somewhat ironically, your highly emotive post is basically about the political system and its increasing complexity.
    There have been many posts from the Editor down in recent days, some even venturing into a philosophical position in order to try to come to terms with its decline.
    Your religious metaphor is a vanity and you pretend to know the voice of reason.
    Really, “Pete”, we deserve better.

  7. Steve Brown, I can see that you are not open to environmental arguments about fracking.
    But keep in mind that it could poison the water supply and perhaps damage the buffel infestation so dear to your heart.
    And would not famine then stalk the land?

  8. So, we now have a a “robust regulatory regime” without having the main recommendation in place to make it robust. I guess we just have a “regime for shale fracking”.

  9. @ Steve: Hi again Steve.
    I’m just after some clarification on a few points – can you please provide specific details about these “fly in fly out protestors” and their being “funded from questionable sources” to come here and spread lies?
    I might be a little confused – they sound just like mining industry representatives.

  10. @ Russell: The Dopey Dave line does not refer to his intelligence or otherwise. There was a popular song about him a few years back that got a bit of air on the ABC and may explain it further.
    I did not slander the Opposition, it was in print so sensitive people could call it defamation.
    It wasn’t defamation because two of the defences are truth and public interest and both could be easily proven in this case.
    It wasn’t about the Opposition, it was about the Opposition leader.
    It only became a political issue when the CLP stopped even paying lip service to the Westminster system.
    Remind me again, Russell, what is the name of the political system where the leader is unelected by the people or even his comrades?

  11. Is it not interesting that Dr Hunter lives in Scotland where they have banned fracking?
    And we all know that fracking gas three strikes against it –
    • It uses 20 million litres of water for every fracking event and each bore hole is fracked 6-10 times.
    • The proposed 50,000 bores for the Territory go through our water supplies and 6% of bores fail regardless of how well regulated or constructed; and then
    • The gas produced is used in numerous ways to pollute the air we breathe.
    So the only people who really defend the unconventional hydraulic fracturing must have some other motivation to support it, I wonder what it is?

  12. Thank you Erwin for bringing public attention to the sellout by the CLP in relation to this issue. The EPA? Honestly. Do they think we are stupid?
    And thank you for providing an independent voice. I was appalled by the ABC news a few night ago, when fracking was presented in a completely biased way, biased by the choice of comment, all comments pro-fracking. Come on ABC! Lift your game.
    This is about the whole, interconnected ecosystem: If we don’t protect it from short sighted and profit driven enterprises like fracking, how do we expect to sustain our lives, and our children’s lives.
    Thanks to ALEC for keeping the pressure on and for Alice Springs News Online for keeping it honest.


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