Baseline studies for the fracking industry are being watered down under new draft terms of reference, according to Protect Country Alliance.
Fracking is already rupturing land and groundwater in the Territory, however the NT Government has only just released its Strategic Regional Environmental Baseline Assessment (SREBA) terms of reference for community consultation.
“We know that Santos is now fracking - yet these studies are still in the community consultation phase. We need the SREBA done properly,” Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer said.
“What’s more, the SREBA terms of reference have been significantly weakened when compared to what the Pepper Inquiry originally envisioned they would be."
The Pepper Inquiry clearly stated:
In a number of cases, the Panel has recommended that a strategic regional environmental and baseline assessment (SREBA) (see Chapter 15) must be undertaken to provide the additional scientific knowledge and baseline information required before a final risk assessment can be made.
“But there are examples where this is not happening," Mr Sawyer said.
“For example, Minister Lawler recently admitted the Water Resources Division had not conducted investigations into the Moroak Sandstone and does ‘not hold data regarding water levels and pressure in the formation at depth’.
“This is just one of many glaring holes in knowledge which need to inform the final risk assessment, as the Moroak is four times saltier than the sea and over 1000 PSI in pressure, as drilling log files on the governments’ own website indicate.
“The risks of it contaminating the freshwater aquifers near the surface and turning the area into a salty wasteland unsuitable for agriculture, wildlife or humans is very real.
“We have lots of saltwater lakes in our inland and not a lot of freshwater ones. It would be a terrible tragedy to turn nearby Lake Woods into a saltwater lake because of ignorance.”
“Water from this region not only flows into Lake Woods but into the Roper, Hodgson, McArthur and Daly river catchments.”
Mr Sawyer said, “The NT Government is ignoring the Pepper Inquiry’s call for in depth scientific baseline studies, and is instead proceeding with a ham fisted approach to data collection.
“The Gunner Government must stop cutting corners and ignoring key elements of the Pepper Inquiry recommendations.
“Despite regular claims in the media about it following the recommendations, the government is flagrantly ignoring the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry at the behest of gas companies.
“Other examples include allowing fracking companies to operate during the wet season and store their waste in open-air containers.
“These baseline studies are needed to determine the risk fracking poses to the complex ecosystems present in the Territory, but most importantly we need to see this final risk assessment as a genuine informed process.
"Currently the Gunner government is ignoring perhaps the most important piece of the Pepper Inquiry.”