The reports were published yesterday at 5pm, the day before the first meeting of the full Lake Eyre Basin consultation committee, and several months after the Palaszczuk Government quietly approved production licences across more than 250,000 hectares of Origin Energy-owned shale tenements on floodplains south west of Windorah.
The decision to grant the production licences led to outcries from local Traditional Owners, and pastoralists who labelled the consultation process a “sham”.
The Palaszczuk Government has made repeated election campaign promises to protect the floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin. At the same time, it has permitted many thousands of hectares of petroleum leases across the region to quietly progress towards production licence status, which effectively grants companies the ability to drill for shale oil and gas.
While one of the reports published yesterday was leaked to the media two years ago, and found fracking could not occur safely on the fragile floodplains, the second CSIRO report, dated 2018, has not previously been released.
Among its numerous concerning findings, the CSIRO report said fracking the Lake Eyre Basin posed “potential impacts relating to surface spills or leaks of chemicals, drilling fluids, hydraulic fracturing fluid, flowback water and produced water.”
As well, the report points to the increased risk of earthquakes as a result from fracking - a byproduct of the industry that led to its ban in the United Kingdom: “Potential impacts are leaks or migration of hydraulic fracturing fluids during hydraulic fracturing operations, and induced seismicity.”
It also said fracking for shale oil and gas led to “decreased access to traditional lands for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”, and had “human health impacts on those living in close proximity to shale gas and oil operations due to changes in air quality”.
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland coordinator Ellie Smith said the fragile river systems of Queensland’s Lake Eyre Basin Rivers, and the communities and businesses they supported, needed to be preserved.
“These new reports are yet more evidence that fracking should be banned on the floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin,” she said.
“These river systems have extraordinary cultural significance for Traditional Owners that needs to be preserved.
“Allowing fracking in the Lake Eyre Basin will also permanently disrupt some of the last free flowing desert rivers in the world, harming the clean green beef industry that exists in the region and driving tourists elsewhere.
“No one wants to pay money to visit thousands of fracked shale oil or gas wells pockmarking a once beautiful landscape. Annastacia Palaszczuk claims she loves the outback. Now is her chance to prove it by banning fracking in Queensland’s Lake Eyre Basin.
“After the approval of production licences across 250,000 hectares of the Lake Eyre Basin last year, it’s time for the Palaszczuk Government to step up and put a moratorium in place on oil and gas fracking while it consults properly and considers these scientific findings.”