LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I wish to clarify statements made in your article “Fracking inquiry gets two sub-inquiries” published on Friday, May 5, 2017.
First, the article states “Judge Pepper does not say why there is no economist on the panel of the multi-million dollar inquiry, set up by the NT Government, and clearly not a social scientist either, although the inquiry is mostly about money and social impact.”
The Inquiry is not “mostly about money and social impact”. Rather, the Inquiry Panel is assessing the risks and impacts associated with any potential hydraulic fracturing of onshore shale gas reservoirs on the physical environment, and on the economic, social and cultural conditions of the Territory.
The Inquiry’s purpose is clearly defined by its Terms of Reference. In summary, the Inquiry Panel must determine:
• the nature and extent of the risks of hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional shale reservoirs on aquatic, terrestrial and atmospheric conditions in the Northern Territory, and
• the nature and extent of the risks and benefits of the unconventional shale gas industry onsocial, economic and cultural conditions.
And must assess:-
• what levels the risks should be reduced to for them to be acceptable in the Northern Territory context;
• how those levels can be achieved; and
• what the government and industry can do to ensure those levels are achieved.
As I have stated in recent Community Updates, in order for the Inquiry to make an appropriate assessment of the potential economic and social impacts of the unconventional shale gas industry, it is necessary and appropriate that the Inquiry Panel procure this highly specialised research by those persons and/or entities that have the expertise and capacity to independently undertake this work.
Second, the article states “Justice Pepper also disclosed in a ‘community update’ that the inquiry now will have three possible recommendations, not two: Fracking or no fracking in the NT, and fracking to be allowed only in the Beetaloo sub-basin only, which is south of Katherine.”
To be clear, the Inquiry has not determined that there will be three possible recommendations nor come to any conclusions whatsoever at this stage.
The three scenarios set out in the economic tender, as referred to in Community Update #9, are to ensure that the scope of works is manageable within the time frame provided to ensure that the Inquiry completes its Final Report by the end of this year.
The Beetaloo sub-basin has been included in the modelling because this is the most prospective area for onshore shale gas development in the Territory, should the moratorium be lifted by the Government.
It should be noted that at no stage will the Inquiry be making any of the three recommendations you have described in your article. Rather, it will be a matter for the NT Government to decide whether or not to, in whole or in part, lift the moratorium upon its receipt of the Final Report at the conclusion of this year.