Protect Country Alliance says recently demoted Morrison Government Resources Minister Keith Pitt is “counting his dinosaur eggs before they hatch” after he announced $21 million for fracking gas wells at a project that has not even received Territory environment approval.
Mr Pitt said the $21M, from the previously announced $50M taxpayer-funded donation to fracking companies, would be used to prop up three new fracking exploration wells at Empire Energy’s EP187 exploration zone near the community of Borroloola.
Empire Energy, via its wholly owned subsidiary Imperial Oil and Gas, has already benefited substantially from taxpayer handouts, with the company the sole beneficiary of the Morrison Government’s “gasroads” $174M subsidy as it progresses its takeover of Pangea, announced earlier this year.
Empire Energy is also a prolific political donor, having given $25,000 to both the Country Liberal Party and Territory Labor in the lead up to the last election (Source here. Follow Political Parties > Gifts received over the threshold > Aust Labor/Country Liberals).
The decision to throw more money at a polluting gas project comes on the same day as AGL announced it would mothball one of four units at South Australia’s biggest gas-fired power station in response to the influx of large-scale renewable energy and rooftop solar power alternatives which are pricing fossil fuels out of the market.
It also comes as a Senate Inquiry prepares to get underway into the regulation under which this grant has been made, with notice of a disallowance motion for it having been lodged.
“The Auditor General slammed the Federal Government just last week for flawed carpark grants made without merit, but here it is today throwing $21M in corporate handouts to a political donor - it stinks,” said Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer.
“The gas and fracking industry is an expensive, polluting dinosaur and the renewables energy industry is an asteroid that’s going to wipe it from the face of the earth, yet Keith Pitt fails to see it on the horizon.
“Not only is he blind to cheaper, less polluting and reliable renewable energy alternatives, but he has gifted a fracking company $21 million in public money when the Territory Government has not finished assessing Empire’s environmental management plan.
“There is also so much that we still don’t know about how fracking would impact the Territory’s fragile environment and underground water network because the research hasn’t been done, despite it being one of the key recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry.
“Keith Pitt needs to get his head out of the cretaceous period and, if he wants to throw public money at energy infrastructure, throw it at technology that hasn’t already been superseded.”