The Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA) has launched a legal challenge to gas company Tamboran’s approval to drill and frack 12 exploratory wells about 600km south of Darwin.
CAFFA will ask the NT Supreme Court to review the decision of NT Environment Minister Lauren Moss last November to approve the project’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP).
Through its lawyers, the Environmental Defenders Office, CAFFA will argue the EMP approval was invalid because Minister Moss failed to adequately consider the environmental impacts of the project.
In particular, CAFFA will argue the minister should have considered the climate impacts of future gas projects that this exploration will enable.
The International Energy Agency said in 2021 there can be no new gasfields if the world is to stand a chance of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, and therefore avoiding the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change.
CAFFA spokesperson Hannah Ekin said: “By approving this exploration application, the minister is laying the grounds for potentially thousands of fracking wells to be drilled in the NT.
“Tamboran’s project would help facilitate the drilling of vast new gas fields across the heart of the Territory - what the gas industry calls the ‘Beetaloo Basin’. This would have a catastrophic impact on runaway climate change and affect the lives of everyone who resides here in the Territory.
“The NT Fyles Government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Fracking Inquiry and it’s clear the government lacks the gumption to step in and do anything meaningful to protect Territorians from the risks of fracking.
“Tamboran’s fracking plans could cause significant impacts on water resources that are vital to the future of the Territory, through unsustainable water take and potential contamination from leaks and spills. The minister has failed to acknowledge these cumulative impacts in her approval.”
EDO CEO David Morris said: "The NT Government has a terrible track record of failing to regulate highly polluting industries.
“In this instance, we're arguing the minister failed to lawfully assess Tamboran's environmental plan by not identifying and considering all the risks.
"The company has publicly opposed targets set by international climate agreements, so it is not surprising its environmental management plan fails to identify key environmental risks.
“The law places the responsibility on the minister to ensure all risks are identified and considered. We say she failed in that task.”
Mudburra Elder Ray Dimakarri Dixon, from Marlinja Community, said: “Fracking, it's a big risk. We want to protect our water, it's very important, it's our culture, it's our ceremony, and our songlines.
“Once the damage is done no one can fix it. It's not right for a new company to come in and do more damage.”