Northern Territory government steps up support fracking industry

Photo by Mitchell Woolnough/ABC News

Contributed by Adam Carlton

A new law in the northern Territory which allows fracking companies exploring for gas to start selling before they go through the project approval process is designed to turn this process into a rubber stamp. This law was introduced into the NT parliament in October last year. The state government hopes that this will give rise to the growth of the industry.

The new law, in the form of an amendment to the Petroleum Act, was approved by the parliament last year. Now the claim that the recommendations that the Pepper inquiry has been met is used to encourage companies to make use of the new law. This is a lie. Even though the inquiry had been meant to be a rubber stamp, it did raise a list of needs before a go ahead can be considered. These needs have not been covered, and the green light was given in May.

NT Environment Centre director Kirsty Howie said allowing the sale of exploratory gas before the recommendations were fully completed appeared to weaken the government’s commitment to the recommendations of its own Pepper inquiry. Appeared, In this context using the word appeared is a polite way that it has.

Photo by Tristan Hooft/ABC News: Kirsty Howie

“We’d been promised by the Northern Territory government that the industry would not move to production until numerous safeguards were in place,” she said.

“That includes things like offsetting all life cycle emissions produced in Australia from fracking and declaring water allocation plans in the regions to be affected.”

Locals opposed to fracking and First Nation communities are not accepting this and gearing up to step up a battle that has already been going on for years. This is especially true for the Beetaloo Basin. Its big underground aquifer is threatened. A dozen test wells have already ben build here. Local community and first Nation opponents, intent of reversing this, have been joined by Northern Territory and across Australia pro-environment organisations.

A gas well in the Beetaloo Basin

This government is showing an incredible lack of concern for the evidence of the damage that this industry causes, or the health of communities directly affected. Experience in Australia and other countries has shown that water catchments are polluted, soil contaminated, and both animals and human beings suffer serious health effects.

It is also a significant contributor to carbon and methane emissions responsible for climate change.

Building an economy on gas is a dead end. The evidence is that the world is starting to move away from it and the high prices of the last few years are coming to an end. Earnings from coal Have dropped from $64 billion in the last financial last year to a forecast of only $30 billion in the next one. Gas follows. It is the same story for gas. Down from $92 billion to $68 billion.

The two major factors are a certain global turning away from fossil fuels, even if it is still slower than needed, and the reality of a global economic downturn that brings less demand for energy for production. The simultaneous fall in the prices of Australia’s mineral exports like iron ore, cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese, and graphite, ae other symptoms of this downturn.

Part of it is falling sales to China, which is undergoing an energy transformation and diversifying its sources for imports of these commodities.

Is the gas industry, including its most toxic variant, continuing only because mates of those in the political establishment want to make a quick grab of money in an unsustainable industry? It certainly looks that way.

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