Lock the Gate Alliance and local communities in the Northern Territory are celebrating after amendments to extend the Federal water trigger to shale and tight gas fracking passed the Federal Senate last night.
Extending the water trigger was a promise made by Federal Labor in the lead-up to the Federal election in 2022, and a Senate Inquiry this year recommended it should be in place by December this year.
If passed, the change will ensure that proposed shale and tight gas fracking projects that are likely to have a significant impact on water, will require rigorous assessment of water impacts, advice from an independent panel of water scientists, and a decision by the Federal Environment Minister.
The law change is likely to affect proposed fracking projects in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin, the West Kimberley in Western Australia, and the floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin in south-west Queensland.
Lock the Gate and local groups and communities around the country have been pushing for the inclusion of shale and tight gas in the water trigger since it was first introduced in 2013, so the step forward today follows a 10-year campaign.
Carmel Flint, National Coordinator with Lock the Gate Alliance said “Passing this amendment will be an incredible step for iconic Aussie water sources, like the Mataranka Hot Springs in the Territory and the Fitzroy River (Martuwarra) Catchment in the Kimberley.
“We want to thank the parliamentarians who have worked so hard to make this happen, especially Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young for her key role, along with Federal Environment Minister Tania Plibersek for her strong action today and Dr Sophie Scamps for her unwavering support.
“If this amendment is passed, the next step will be holding gas companies to account, and ensuring gas appraisal and pilot production projects are called in under the water trigger and referred to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee for advice."
Mudburra elder and Traditional Owner, Ray Dimakarri Dixon, from Marlinja in the Northern Territory, said “Water is life for us and we have always said we don’t want fracking here.
“We will be asking the Federal Minister to listen to Traditional Owners, to hear our voices, and to stop these fracking projects from draining or contaminating our water."
Hannah Ekin from Central Australian Frack Free Alliance said, “This means a lot for the Territory. Most communities here are entirely dependent on groundwater to survive, and it’s crazy to put that at risk for a reckless fracking agenda.
“In our electorate of Lingiari, we’re very grateful for the commitment that our local MP, Marion Scrymgeour, has made to get the water trigger extension implemented along with the support of NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy.
“There’s more work to do, but the most important thing is for this to pass Parliament quickly, and for fracking proposals of Empire Energy and Tamboran Resources to be urgently called in and required to conduct far-reaching water modelling and impact assessment”.