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 NT Fracking Inquiry
 Posted: Feb 11 2018, 09:29 AM

Dentus Chookus

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NT fracking inquiry may recommend major delay in industry resumption

Exclusive by Jane Bardon

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Photo: Only one person at two recent inquiry meetings expressed a pro-fracking stance. (ABC News: Jane Bardon)

There could be a significant delay in the resumption of fracking in the Northern Territory, with the head of an inquiry considering whether to put the brakes on not just production, but exploration as well.

In December the Gunner Government's fracking inquiry recommended in its draft report that three years of scientific studies should be carried out before full-scale gas production could take place.

But now the head of the inquiry is considering whether to apply that timeframe to exploration as well.

The gas industry body APPEA had reacted without concern to the inquiry's original recommendation, saying the requirement for Strategic Regional Environmental Baseline Assessment (SREBA) studies would fit in with its need for further exploration before gas production could start.

But in a weekend Darwin community meeting, the inquiry panel led by Justice Rachel Pepper heard appeals from several members of the public to consider recommending the scientific studies should be conducted before any exploration could resume.

"A great number, if not all of the recommendations in the draft report need to be put in place prior to the exploration phase," Darwin resident Melissa Bury said.

"It's not sufficient that those recommendations be put in place only prior to the production phase."

She asked the panel to consider a further delay because of concern that fracking occurs during both exploration and production.

"If industry has already committed millions of dollars to exploration in an area it would be very difficult for the Government to say no, if the scientific studies later come back and say fracking would be too risky," she said.

In an interview with the ABC, Justice Pepper said the inquiry panel would consider the appeal to require the scientific studies before exploration.

"They want us to look again at whether the recommendation for the need for a SREBA occurs before exploration or after exploration and pre-production.

"We are going to take that on board and have a look again at the timing of that recommendation, and other recommendations where we're alive to that timing issue," Justice Pepper said.

At the inquiry's Friday community meeting in Humpty Doo the panel revealed fracking should only go ahead in the key Southern Beetaloo Basin which the industry wants to target, if the scientific studies find deep untapped aquifers can be used.

Professor Barry Hart told the meeting that the higher up freshwater aquifers used by pastoralists in the area between Daly Waters and Elliott do not refill in the wet season.

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Photo: The Northern Territory's remote Beetaloo Basin. (ABC News: Jane Bardon)

Rather, they are a finite reserve of ancient water dating back to Australia's wetter history.

He said gas companies should instead look deeper for the large amounts of water required for fracking.

"There's a possibility to go down to lower. There are other aquifers down lower. They're lesser quality and normally a little bit more saline. But they would still be available for fracking," Professor Hart told the ABC.

At both meetings the inquiry heard almost universal scepticism of industry assurances, the capacity of regulators to hold a fracking industry in check, and the Government's readiness to adopt all of its inquiry's recommendations.

"All these things are taken on board by the inquiry, but I don't really feel in my heart of hearts that things will change in their recommendations when they do the final report," Darwin tradesman Darren said.

"I think the panel has already made up their minds."

These giant tankers carrying Australian gas to Asia are the reason why domestic prices will stay high, writes Michael Janda.

Virginia resident Patricia Creswick said she feared the Government would be vulnerable to industry pressure to water down the inquiry recommendations.

"The Government might be encouraged to perhaps cherry pick some of the regulations," she said.

Justice Pepper has warned against that.

She told both meetings and the ABC that in her final report in March she would emphasise that the inquiry's finding fracking risks can be mitigated is conditional on all recommendations being implemented.

"They are a suite, they are a package, there will not be any cherry picking. And that's what we will hand down, and that's what we will give to Government," Justice Pepper told the ABC.

No attendees at the Humpty Doo meeting, and only one at the Darwin meeting expressed pro-fracking views.

Businessman Mark Fraser had to close down his firm supplying equipment to the gas industry when the moratorium was brought in by the Labor Government in 2016.

"I'd like to see opportunities for Northern Territory businesses and workers in Northern Territory both in the township, but also in the indigenous communities," he said.

At the Darwin community meeting Justice Pepper was told by one member of the public that if fracking goes ahead based on her recommendations, "you madam, will be responsible".

Justice Pepper rejected that, and told the meeting, the decision on whether the moratorium will be lifted is a political one for the Gunner Government, which voters could use their power to influence.

"It's up to you to hold the Government to task. You guys got a moratorium," she told the meeting.

Some residents including Mary Walsh from Humpty Doo said they expected the Government would decide to allow fracking in the Beetaloo Basin first, in the hope voters outside the area would not care.

"I suppose because it's not in their backyard it mightn't be a problem, but for the people who are living in that area it's still a huge concern," she said.

Other rural residents including Richard Creswick said they hoped the Government would be afraid to make an unpopular decision.

"I hope they think it's too politically unpalatable," Mr Creswick said.

"I think there's been enough community feeling in opposition to this, that if they're listening to the people then they'll say no. New South Wales have said no, Victoria's said no, it's OK to say no," he said.

The problem with fracking is the many thousands of litres of chemicals, some toxic, that are used with each fracturing and which subsequently leach into ground water. The aquifers in the Northern Territory are particularly susceptible to this.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
 Posted: Feb 11 2018, 10:25 AM

Supremo Poster

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I would seem that our local, state and federal governments are completely unteachable.
All they see is money.

Living In An Elected Dictatorship
Flin's opinions and comments reflect his perception of the facts and not necessarily reality
 Posted: Feb 11 2018, 12:18 PM

Supremo Poster

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A very emotive topic.

Here is a rather long look at fracking.

There are other sites as well.

There is a lot of misinformation about fracking, from both sides of the "argument" I expect.

The "greenies" who oppose it won't or don't think of the "pollution and other risks" associated with the manufacture and eventual disposal of materials used in solar panels LI batteries and wind generators. Instead they sing their praises as clean green energy.

I keep an open mind about it.

Everybody is Willing:
Some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them!

The older I get, the better I was.
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