More doubts on Gunner's fracking policies


p2358-fracking-okBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The Don’t Frack Katherine group (DFK) is suggesting Chief Minister Michael Gunner is going soft on fracking, selling out the people who were crucial to his election victory.
With the deadline on Thursday for public comment, the group says the draft terms of reference for the scientific panel to advise the government are “aimed only at the singular act of hydraulic fracturing, with many areas of risk lacking from the review”.
PHOTO provided by Don’t Frack Katherine shows industrialisation of the hydraulically fractured Jonah shale Gasfield, USA.
Says DFK in a media release: “Unfortunately, it would seem that despite promises, Labor has now shortened and weakened the Terms of Reference for the independent panel – now also including a representative from the gas industry – which will conduct the scientific inquiry.”
The terms of reference are “aimed only at the singular act of hydraulic fracturing, with many areas of risk lacking from the review”.
It is still unclear whether the government will appoint inspectors of drilling operations who are independent from both the government and the industry, as considered essential by Professor Tina Hunter.
Mr Gunner implemented a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of shale in the NT on September 14.
DFK says this came too late to stop Origin Energy’s Amungee Mungee well from being fractured, which was given the go ahead by CLP three days before the recent NT election.
The group seems to be wrong on this point: The Gunner Government has the option of telling the company it will not extend leases after five years, which would almost certainly motivate the company not to proceed with the project.
The apparent back-pedalling in Labor’s fracking policy has already attracted vigorous criticism from environmentalists.
“It is quite clear that Michael Gunner has not understood, or is perhaps choosing to ignore, the potential cumulative impacts underpinning the overall concerns of the majority,” says DFK.
The group quotes Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, as acknowledging that the unconventional shale gas production industry will have a bigger footprint and use significantly more water than coal seam gas.
“The industry has potential to impact landscapes, ecosystems, surface and groundwater, atmosphere, communities, and result in increased seismicity,” the group quotes Prof Chubb as saying.
“Understanding the threat will only be achieved through proper scientific study covering all aspects of this industry, not hydraulic fracturing alone. [There is need for] research into the deep shale basins and the related landscapes, water resources and ecosystems connected to them.”
This is in stark contrast to the frequent claims by the Giles Government that shale gas production is far more benign than coal seam production.
DFK says “this is a high risk industry that works remotely across vast areas, ramps up at tremendous pace and is left to self-regulate”.
In the Katherine region “both Pangaea and Origin Energy found traces of gas in ground water sampling.
“It is now up to these companies to determine where that gas has migrated from; if it has escaped the shale or another source, and if industry activity has caused it.
“These two gas companies are left to monitor these bores to track if levels increase and also to determine what contaminants exist. The water from one bore was said to have a ‘diesel like smell’.
“A recent drilling report submitted to Water Resources states a new bore within Pangaea tenement not far from shale exploration wells, had to be left for observation due to the smell of gas.
“The collection of baseline data and continued monitoring should not be left to industry under self-regulation.
“A totally independent body should be employed to collect baseline data and then monitor for changes, in order to detect any seepage and contamination. We do not want another ‘Condamine River’ example, or worse, in our own back yard.
“Failure rate of wells in the US, who use the same American Petroleum Producers approved cement and steel that will be used here in the NT, and which cannot be structurally guaranteed, is higher than originally estimated.
“Shale wells are never fully drained of all hydrocarbons, nor of the fracking fluid or formation water, they are ‘killed off’ once the well is commercially non-viable. Eventually all well integrity will fail and create migration pathways for remaining introduced and naturally occurring contaminants and toxins.
“No study has been undertaken to determine the effects on sheet water flow due to intense landscape industrialisation shale gas production will bring to almost pristine water catchment and important aquifer recharge areas,” says DFK.
“The majority of land in these basins remains relatively untouched. The semi- arid tropical savannah of the Northern Territory is rated as amongst the world’s most pristine remaining savannahs. Up until this point, there has been no real threat of contamination, over extraction or industrialisation of this ground water source.
“The unconventional oil and gas industry still sit outside of the NT Water Act. Origin Energy has used between 10 and 15 megalitres of water for the hydraulic fracturing of its Amungee Mungee well, not to forget the extra required for camp, road construction and well bore drilling.
“Despite industry assurance they would use brackish water from deep formations wherever possible, the water requirements for the Amungee Mungee well were met with potable water taken from the Gum Ridge Formation within the Georgina Basin.
“While Origin and industry defend their use by saying this is only a small amount in comparison, it is actually a very large sudden drawdown on groundwater supply, and is water that cannot be returned to our natural system.”
DFK says responses can be made on the NT Government website by October 13.
We have invited comment from the three government MLAs in The Centre, as well as the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
UPDATE 1:50pm
When asked for comment Matt Doman, of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, pointed to a statement he made last month: “We acknowledge the new Government’s policy reflects concern in the community over the industry’s impacts – all too often stirred up by the false and exaggerated claims of opponents.
“Every reputable study confirms that, properly regulated, our industry is safe. We understand that many people are uncertain about the industry, largely because of activists’ fear campaigns. The industry is working with pastoralists, Traditional Owners and the wider community to address these concerns.”
UPDATE 3:50pm
Chansey Paech, the Member for Namatjira said: “The government has placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing across the entire Northern Territory, which is what we promised prior to the election.
“I am committed to the people of Namatjira and am making sure that the concerns of my constituents are heard.”
UPDATE 2:50am Tuesday
Jimmy Cocking, Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs, says it will make a submission by Thursday, saying the current draft is not broad enough, and fails to take into account the economic implications – competition for water with pastural and agricultural enterprises and impact on the attractiveness of the country to tourists.
It will also refer to the Paris Agreement which calls for 80% of the known reserves of fossil fuels to stay under ground, says Mr Cocking.
He also says the local Frack Free Alliance has already made a submission.
UPDATE 5:30pm Tuesday
A spokeswoman for Resources Minister Ken Vowles says an exploration permit given to Origin Energy at the Amungee well site by the Giles Government just days before the election will not allow the company to use fracking.
Mr Vowles says in a media release says: “The previous Government did not enforce the regulations in force at the time of approving this exploration permit on 23 August, just days prior to the election.
“Territory Labor’s clear policy of a moratorium on fracking came into effect on September 14.
“Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) for exploration or production will not be approved while the moratorium is in place.”


  1. Well at least someone from the Government is talking to the media and the people. Not the best response but at least he’s talking.
    Does the Member for Braitling have a response for us anti FRACKING people who got her over the line?

  2. The Territory Government has never had a good record regarding controlling conditions around mining resulting in the public purse having to be raided to clean up the mess, but in this instance the mess will not be able to be repaired.
    Now that they are in power they seem to have forgotten their spiel to the people to get the vote.
    The most consistent question I was asked in the lead-up to the election was “which one is against fracking?”

  3. G’Day Matthew and Erwin,
    Could you tell us more about DFK and why we should be placing so much faith in their claims of ‘selling out’ by the Labor Government?
    Given the ASN has regurgitated their press releases it would seem appropriate to inform us a little bit more about them.

  4. Hi Lindsay,
    We don’t regurgitate handouts.
    As careful reading of our report would have shown you, we quoted from a release issued by the group, which has around 15 active members, added information from and links to some of our earlier reports, joined some dots and suggested that the group is off-track on one point.
    And a little research of you own would have taken you to their Facebook site.
    All the best, Erwin Chlanda, Editor, Alice Springs News Online.

  5. @ R Henry: “The most consistent question I was asked in the lead-up to the election was ‘which one is against fracking?'” I tried to find out with no success.
    Left Wing or Right Wing, it’s still the Same Bird.
    The special interests and corporations tell the leaders what to do and entice them with gifts and campaign contributions and they manipulate the people in to following these goals and believing that these are the best ideas.
    The public (ergo the voters) are quite literally tortured by greed and inhumanity like the torture technique used in the Middle Age that used two horses to pull at a person in opposite directions.
    The person is “the people” and the horses are our political leaders.
    The horses are being whipped and driven to push on in these separate directions, regardless of the pain being inflicted to “the people”.
    Those cracking the whips are the corporations and special interests.
    Until the voters decided to exterminated those two big parties, nothing will change.
    In the last election the majority of independents and small parties wanted to get rid of Adam Giles to any cost, but they ignored the adage “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true”.
    If you get things that you desire, there may be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences.

  6. By the end of the moratorium period the march on renewable technologies will likely ensure that fracking is forgotten.
    It is through the advance of science and technology that we will see solar and wind generation of electricity coupled with cheaper storage technologies drive the final nail into the coffin of the coal and gas industries.
    Solar and wind power are currently able to generate electricity at prices competitive with carbon.
    Recent reports have demonstrated that the government is not going to reap significant returns on our behalf for several decades if ever.
    By then the environmental damage has been done, the companies have gone broke or moved on and the tax payer is left with the bill.

  7. Hi Lindsay: Don’t Frack Katherine is a volunteer community advocate group that represents the majority of Katherine and district poplulation who have concerns with the develop of unconventional gas production in the Katherine region.
    Our main focus is the protection of ground water sources as the vast majority of residents, existing industries and our spring fed tropical rivers are reliant on this precious water resource.
    We have embarked on a journey of extensive research in order to better understand the impacts and risks involved from various aspects of shale gas exploration, production and abandonment. We were not only reading countless reports and papers, but engaging in conversations with industry reps, hydrogeologists, well integrity experts, and negotiating with departmental heads.
    Don’t Frack Katherine has been calling for protection of aquifer recharge areas, essential studies to be undertaken, vital baseline data collected, and an independent purposely trained cadre to regulate the industry.
    We believe that industry and government have cherry picked lines from recommendations of Chief Scientists, deliberately leaving out the comments about necessity for extensive studies in order to understand the complexity of the issues this industry brings in order to minimize impact.
    We do have a Facebook page (same name) if you are interested in finding out more about our group.


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