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WA Government plan invites companies to apply to frack before regulations in place

The Lock the Gate Alliance has described an implementation plan for fracking in WA as “extremely concerning” in its lack of detail and substance.

The plan, which has taken the government more than seven months to develop, was quietly released after 5.30pm on Friday July 12.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate in WA Jane Hammond said the plan opened the way for fracking to proceed in WA despite there being no new regulations in place to protect people, land, water and climate stability.

“Under the plan, fracking companies are now free to submit their applications to frack across more than 5 million hectares of WA,” Ms Hammond said.

“The new regulations that are supposed to protect the community are nowhere near ready or even on the drawing board. The plan admits some regulations will take years to fully implement.

“The implementation plan outlines 20 action points but details little of how the 44 recommendations of the fracking inquiry will actually be put into practice. 

“We simply don’t have regulations that could protect land, water, health, environment or climate stability. Meanwhile, fracking companies can effectively begin activities.

“This plan throws responsibility for ensuring that fracking is sufficiently regulated back to the community who will have to endure workshops and consultations pitted against the industry and industry bodies like APPEA.

“Listening to local communities is critical. Yet the amount of work that farmers, Traditional Owners and other citizens will be expected to do on these 20 action points, just to keep the industry from getting its own way on every regulation, is huge.

“Sections of the community already feel disenfranchised by the consultation process involved in the fracking inquiry. People feel they were not listened to and that community consultation for fracking issues has become a bit of a tick and flick in WA.

“WA communities want to protect their land and water from invasive fracking gasfields. We are calling for a freeze on any fracking applications until each and every regulation is in place and community input is acknowledged and taken seriously.”

Other areas of concern in the plan include:

  •  That it says nothing about how fracking waste will be dealt with, other than mentioning that water quantity audits will be introduced to see if “significant” leaks are occurring and “warrant” fixing.
  •  A decision to keep responsibility for fracking regulation with the Department of Mines while passing promotion of the industry onto the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation. This misses the point. An independent regulatory authority, not DMIRS (which has a strong pro-fracking internal culture), would provide better oversight of fracking company compliance.
  •  The plan states that fracking will be allowed on land covered by existing petroleum titles as of November 26, 2018, and then goes on to say that it may also be allowed on new petroleum leases after community consultation. In other words, it’s open slather for fracking for much of the rest of the state as long as there is some form of consultation. It doesn't say there is a community veto just that authorities have to speak with the community. This is different to the government’s statement in November last year that only 2 per cent of WA would be open to fracking.
  •  The plan says that ways to ensure financial liabilities are covered will take at least until December next year to sort out. Will this be retrospective or will fracking be taking place before we have these assurances?
  •   We still have no maps to show how much of the Dampier Peninsula will be protected from fracking and we have no maps showing what other significant areas of environmental value outside national parks will be protected from fracking.
  •  In terms of veto rights for Traditional Owners and private landholders, the government has again missed the point. It says that Traditional Owners and private landholders will have to consent before any “production” of fracking wells can take place. This is too late. Veto rights are needed prior to the exploration phase of the fracking process.

The WA Government’s Fracking Implementation Plan can be found here

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