Fracking paper alarms conservationists

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The Conservation Council of WA is calling on tourism and agriculture workers to make a submission to the WA Fracking Inquiry.

GINGIN and Yanchep residents are being encouraged to make submissions to the WA Fracking Inquiry after the release of a background and issues paper.

The Conservation Council of WA said the background and issues paper identified serious environmental, social, economic and health risks associated with the gas fracking industry.

Yanchep News Online understands two gas companies have permits to explore for gas in and around Gingin, Muchea and Chittering with at least one reportedly wanting to explore for unconventional gas.

Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said the background paper released by the inquiry acknowledged fracking had serious and significant risks, including contamination and other effects on groundwater and surface water.

Mr Verstegen said the paper also acknowledged fracking affected soil quality, biodiversity, farming and other beneficial uses of the environment, Aboriginal heritage, public safety and the amenity and aesthetic enjoyment of an area.

It could also cause air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

He said for the thousands of people across WA who wanted a permanent ban on fracking to extend across the state it was an important time to have their say.

“We encourage anyone who likes to eat clean local produce or drink clean water, anyone who works in tourism, agriculture, or other industries affected by fracking, and anyone and who loves the natural and cultural heritage of our beautiful state to make a submission to the inquiry,” he said.

Mr Verstegen said while acknowledging the risks of fracking was a good start, other parts of the background paper were concerning with some sections reading like a public relations document for WA’s regulatory settings for petroleum development.

“A fundamental lack of confidence in current regulatory settings from all parts of the community – including alarm at the lack of environmental protection, the lack of transparency, and the issuing of fracking exploration permits across vast areas of the state without community consultation – is precisely what led to this inquiry being initiated,’’ he said.

“In order to be credible, the WA Fracking Inquiry must be genuinely independent of agencies which have been promoting and regulating the fracking industry, however parts of the background paper bring that independence into question.

“Other concerning statements in the background paper include on page one ‘The onshore regions of Western Australia where there is potential interest in developing unconventional oil and gas resources already have a history of conventional oil and gas development’.

“This is incorrect – fracking exploration leases have been issued over vast parts of the state including the Kimberley, Carnarvon Basin, Mid West, Swan Valley and South West – which have never been the subject of petroleum development.

 “The background paper also states on page two that the inquiry will not investigate the comparative impacts of oil and gas versus other energy sources.

“However the environmental impacts of different energy supply options and choices are clearly within the scope of the Environmental Protection Act, the legislative framework guiding the inquiry, and should be considered.”

Previously the Department of Mines and Petroleum has said holders of a petroleum exploration permit or production licence were required to obtain consent from the landholder, verbal or otherwise, to access land, as listed in the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy and Resources Act 1967.

But registered holders are required to obtain written consent in the following cases: private land not exceeding 2000sqm in area, land used as a cemetery or burial place or land that is less than 150m laterally from any cemetery or burial place, any natural storage or accumulation of water, a spring, dam, bore, or artesian well, or any substantial improvement.

The department said the Mines and Petroleum Minister could also limit access through conditions placed on the petroleum title that prohibit the registered holder from entering specific areas within the title area, such as those with heritage and tourism value.

A spokesman said there was no case known to the department where a company had contaminated a water supply during unconventional gas exploration or extraction in any part of WA.

He said the quality of the state’s water sources was protected through a collaborative approach across government and agencies involved included the departments of Water, Environment Regulation, Health, Mines and Petroleum and the Environment Protection Agency where appropriate.

The background and issues paper is available at

https://frackinginquiry.wa.gov.au/background-and-issues-paper