NT Water Act amendment to give fracking companies free pass to pollute water

Published: September 19, 2018

Mining and fracking companies could be given an exemption allowing them to pollute water across entire exploration permit areas in the Northern Territory if draft changes to the NT Water Act are not rewritten to remove significant loopholes.

Submissions to the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 are due today. The Lock the Gate Alliance will submit that the exemption drafted under Section 7(2) puts Northern Territory water at risk and is completely unacceptable.

“This proposed exemption to allow miners and fracking companies to pollute NT water across their operations is a breach of trust by the Gunner Government,” said Naomi Hogan, National Coordinator with the Lock the Gate Alliance.

“There is no logical reason why Water Act should include this broad water pollution permission that could result in companies avoiding penalties for spills of chemicals, or mine and fracking waste water contaminating our waterways. It’s unacceptable.

“As drafted, fracking companies may not be breaking the law if they pollute creeks, dams and groundwater across their vast fracking licences which cover cattle stations, iconic tourism spots and community living areas.

“Fracking companies use poisonous chemicals in order to extract shale oil and gas. Territory communities will be put at risk if this industry gets a free pass on basic laws to prevent water pollution.

“This is the first new law being introduced since the Fracking Inquiry report and already the promises of strict environmental controls on the industry are being compromised.

“The NT Fracking Inquiry found that Territorians are overwhelmingly opposed to fracking. This drafted exemption to allow fracking companies to pollute water is a slap in the face to community members that have serious concerns about protecting water from this industry.

“This exemption allows the fracking industry to gamble with the safety of our water supplies. Its time the Gunner Government put Territorians first and removed the free pass to pollute under Section 7(2).

“We are calling on the Economic Committee reviewing this Bill to remove this exemption and ensure there is no broad right for miners and fracking companies to pollute Territory water,” she said.   

The Lock the Gate Alliance will also submit that the draft updates to the Water Act are still missing critical new reforms recommended in the Fracking Inquiry.

“The  reform process for new water laws is piecemeal and shambolic. These proposed reforms are yet to provide a clear water protection framework as recommended by the NT Fracking Inquiry.”

Further information:

The Committee site with the draft changes and call for submissions is here: https://parliament.nt.gov.au/committees/EPSC/60-2018

The part of the NT Water Act in question:

Section 16 of the Water Act presently make it an offence to allow waste to come into contact with water or to pollute it in a way that causes serious environmental harm without authorisation. Water means “water flowing or contained in a waterway”, “ground water” and “tidal water.”

However, the Water Act as drafted for comment includes this section:

Section 7 amended (Application of Act to mining or petroleum activity)

7 (2) Section 16 does not apply to waste that comes into contact with water, or water that is polluted, if:

(a) the contact or pollution occurs in the course of carrying out a mining activity or petroleum activity; and

(b) the waste or polluted water is confined within the mining site or petroleum site on which the activity is being carried out.

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Content on this site is authorised by Georgina Woods for Lock the Gate Alliance, Lismore NSW.