New NT Petroleum regulations rush job, fails well integrity test

Published: July 06, 2016

Territory residents have responded to new Petroleum (Environment) regulations, which came into effect in the Territory today. The regulations do not go far enough to protect water and businesses, according to EDONT, Territory pastoralists and the Lock the Gate Alliance NT.

Mataranka region pastoralist Jade Roberts said, “Cattle station owners I talk to want the right to say no to fracking gasfields on their land. That’s the regulation improvement we want to see.”

“We’re trying to run a business and yet we have no legal rights to say ‘no thanks’ to hundreds of gas wells,” she said.

Last month in NT Parliament, Gerry Wood MLA supported the concerns of the law firm EDO NT who submitted the following in relation to the regulations:

1. The draft regulations do not define what is meant by ‘acceptable’ or ‘as low as reasonably practical’.

2. Our continued scepticism of the merits of an approach which does not specify in the regulations any minimum requirements that must be met by operators but instead requires them to achieve environmental outcomes which are always ‘acceptable’, a word that has been questioned before.

3. An over-reliance on the minister to make good decisions.

4. The absence of a sufficiently qualified independent body to assist the minister in making decisions about the adequacy of Environmental Management Plans

5. The absence of a third party review right to challenge the merits of decisions.

Des Barritt, a prospective tourism operator from the Mataranka region said, “Well integrity is the big issue for water protection and I don’t believe the Territory Government has the capacity to employ the sorts of experts we need to oversee well integrity properly.”

Naomi Hogan of the Lock the Gate Alliance NT makes the following points:

“The regulations are so vague they do not even mention the words ‘shale’ or ‘gas’. It’s left up to the company to decide what the best approach to fracking is.

"The regulations give all the power to the Mines Minister to decide on the acceptable risk from fracking.”

“The principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development sound good, but can we trust the Government to do the right thing with our water resources if they push ahead and allow thousands of fracked gas wells across the Territory?”

“The CLP ignored critical advice by Dr Tina Hunter, failing to include the need for independent inspections of well integrity into the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations.”

Dr Tina Hunter clearly stated in her Recommendation 11: Well inspection by an independent certified third party inspector should be a mandatory component of the regulatory regime for drilling, and should be considered during the drafting of the relevant regulations.

“The Government is failing to take seriously one of the biggest risks of the shale gas fracking industry, well failure and water contamination.”

“The CLP rushed to get these regulations done before the NT election and have missed the chance to get this right,” she said.


The Petroleum (Environment) Regulations are available in full here:

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