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Feds falter on water, climate as Empire launches new NT frack attack

The Albanese Government’s promised climate and water protections are nowhere to be seen as fracking companies ramp up activity in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin.

The public consultation period for Empire Energy’s planned Carpentaria Pilot Project, which will involve the drilling and fracking of 10 horizontal gas wells south west of Borroloola, ends today (Friday April 19). 

Empire says its Carpentaria fracking project will:

  • Require the use of nearly one billion litres of groundwater from the important gum ridge aquifer over the project’s four year lifespan.

  • Produce between 30,000 and 475,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution* each year, despite the Commonwealth Government committing to Pepper Inquiry recommendation 9.8 which states fracking should only go ahead if there can be no net increase in emissions. 

  • Produce 600 cubic metres of drill cuttings per well. Empire provides no information about how it will dispose of this waste.

  • Store contaminated waste water in huge, open, man-made ponds, contrary to recommendations this practice be avoided to prevent the risk of spills.

Empire’s application comes soon after Tamboran submitted a similar plan for its 15-well Shenandoah project during the Christmas period

In both cases, Lock the Gate Alliance has criticised the companies’ environment management plans (EMPs) over a stark lack of detail concerning impacts on water, emissions, waste management, and baseline biodiversity studies.

The escalation of fracking activity also comes after the Albanese Government passed laws requiring fracking companies to refer their projects’ impacts on water for federal assessment, known as the “water trigger”, with Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek the decision maker. However, neither Tamboran, nor Empire, have so far referred their projects under the new laws.

Katherine Veterinarian and Protect Big Rivers founder Dr Samantha Phelan said, “These wells would be built adjacent to a massive and pristine floodway that feeds some of the best fishing in the gulf; it makes no sense to risk contaminating this beautiful place. 

“We’ve just seen major flooding linked to tropical cyclones in this region. It’s no place for a fracking field. 

“Ordinary Territorians are alarmed at how ready the NT Government is to favour frackers over its own people and environment. We need the Federal Government to step in, and to date, the Albanese Government has failed us.”

Central Australian Frack Free Alliance spokesperson Hannah Ekin said it was becoming increasingly clear that the Federal Government was unwilling to step in when fracking companies chose not to refer their own projects under the water trigger.

“Relying on fracking companies to self-refer their polluting projects for federal assessment is like asking the fox to tell the farmer how many chickens it plans to eat. It’s not going to happen,” she said.

“The Albanese Government is missing in action in the Beetaloo Basin on water protection and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Albanese Government needs to show its mettle on water protection and emissions reductions to stop communities and the environment being sold down a polluted river.

“Sadly, it’s the NT and the communities who live here who will suffer the consequences if the Albanese Government fails to act.”



*In its EMP, Empire Energy claims its Carpentaria Project will avoid most of the 475,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution the project could create each year, by selling “appraisal” gas via the McArthur River mine pipeline. However, there are no such agreements in place for it to do so.

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