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Scandal-plagued SREBA offers no reassurance for fracking-wary Territorians

Critics say a long-delayed, and scandal-plagued baseline study recommended as part of the fracking inquiry is “inadequate”, and the scientific findings are unlikely to be used in good-faith by the blindly pro-fracking Fyles Government.

The government today released its Strategic Regional Environmental and Baseline Assessment (SREBA) during a closed media session. 

Anti-fracking advocates are now demanding the baseline data to be referred back to Justice Rachel Pepper for a final risk assessment in line with her fracking inquiry recommendations.

Importantly, the SREBA found Territorians “have very low trust in the gas industry to adhere to best practice and very low trust in the government’s ability to regulate the industry effectively.” and that “There is high and widespread concern for aquatic ecosystems (including subterranean) and water sources as underpinning life and livelihoods. Most of the opposition to the industry is based on this concern.” 

Arid Lands Environment Centre spokesperson Hannah Ekin said that was unlikely to change, regardless of how hard the Fyles Government pushed its pro-fracking agenda.

“Since the fracking moratorium was overturned, the Territorians have seen and heard nothing but full throated, blind support for fracking from this government. They have had their concerns gaslighted at every turn, while the government has rewritten the rules to favour the fracking industry," she said.

“Baseline scientific reports are only as good as the way they are used, and we don’t trust the blindly pro-fracking Fyles Government to use this report in good faith.

“The SREBA could have said fracking would blow the Territory to smithereens, and the Fyles Government would still have given it a big fat tick.

“Territorians need a cumulative impact assessment of the risks fracking poses to the region before production licences are handed out - so far government approvals have only considered individual applications - not the total impact.

“Justice Pepper also said a final risk assessment was required. We call on the Fyles Government to approach Justice Pepper and formally request that she oversee this critical assessment.”

The SREBA process was plagued with accusations of science-shopping, and even triggered an ICAC investigation after specialised Charles Darwin University Scientists were stripped of a contract at the eleventh hour.

The decision to strip the scientists of the contract came after the university released groundbreaking research which showed how the presence of a species of predatory blind cave shrimp in locations hundreds of kilometres apart proved the interconnectedness of the NT’s vast groundwater reservoirs, and the risk of fracking contamination spreading.

The NT Government also came under fire after it awarded a $325,000 contract for research into the social, cultural and economic impacts of fracking part of the SREBA to the University of Queensland Centre for Natural Gas, which is funded by fracking companies.

As well, the pandemic restricted researchers' ability to travel and obtain necessary data at a time when the NT Government was facing pressure over delays to the SREBA.

Pastoralist Carina James, of Cow Creek Station near Larrimah, said, “The problem with these one off studies is that people make mistakes, and we can’t afford any mistakes with the water.”

"I've asked and nobody can give me 100% assurance that there won't be changes to the water quality or quantity for my business and operations as a result of fracking, and I can't accept that.

"This is my life and my home that’s on the line. The government is saying this SREBA gives us the information we need to manage the risks of fracking, but why should we be managing those risks - we're not the ones creating them.

"When they conducted bore studies at my place, there were technical issues, and at least one bore test wasn't completed. This makes me concerned there may be other, smaller parts of this study that were not complete, and it could have impacted the final results.

"The reliability of the study is only as good as the accuracy and resourcing of the data collection process."


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