Pastoralist upset with fracking go-ahead | Katherine Times

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Pastoralist upset with fracking go-ahead

HOT SPOT: The Amungee well at the centre of all the excitement over a potential shale gas bonanza in the NT's Beetaloo.

A pastoralist is taking an energy company to court in an action which raises questions on the NT Government’s fracking approval process.

Bullwaddy Pastoral Company, operators of the Amungee Station near Daly Waters, has taken legal action against Origin Energy over what it claims was a lack of consultation on the resumption of exploration on the station.

What makes the case even more interesting is that the excitement over a potential shale gas bonanza in the Beetaloo was sparked by Origin’s discovery at an Amungee test well, before the moratorium began.

Like Santos, Origin is looking to return to the Beetaloo to continue exploring now the moratorium has been lifted.

The Supreme Court action, which is now going to trial, is also seen as a test case for “stakeholder engagement” by the industry with NT leaseholders.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association said the action would bring to light how the gas industry was engaging with leaseholders.

Supreme Court Justice Steven Southwood, while not agreeing to an injunction being sought by the operators of Amungee Station in the Beetaloo Basin, found there were “serious trial-able issues” to determine whether or not Origin carried out stakeholder engagement

The court action also seeks to discover whether or not Origin lodged an Environmental Management Plan in accordance with newly approved NT regulations.

“If Origin is found not to have carried out stakeholder engagement then it raises the question as to how the Minister could have approved the EMP to satisfy Regulation 9 and the schedules,” NTCA chief executive Ashley Manicaros said.

“Stakeholder engagement is a matter for the Minister to consider before giving approvals.

Mr Manicaros said not gaining an injunction placed Origin, not the leaseholder, in an interesting position.

“If they proceed with the work and are subsequently found to have failed in their stakeholder engagement then they will have entered the property illegally and as Justice Steven Southwood pointed out will be liable for compensation,” he said.

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“However, the bigger issue from the NTCA’s point of view is that if Origin proceed with the work it will send a very clear message as to the way the gas industry intends to treat leaseholders when it comes to onshore gas.”

“I don’t think the pastoral industry or Territorians will be overly impressed that when it comes down to it that the gas industry is going to do the complete opposite to what it has promised it wouldn’t do which is ride roughshod over leaseholders.

“Everyone seems to forget that the properties the gas companies are going to be accessing are operating businesses in a very successful $1.2 billion industry.”

Mr Manicaros said both Origin and the landholder should sit at the negotiating table with an independent mediator to resolve their issues.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association spokesman Keld Knudsen said APPEA would not comment on a specific dispute between one leaseholder and one company, which remains before the courts.

But Mr Knudsen said the oil and gas industry and pastoralists have been working side-by-side in the NT for many years.

“Building and maintaining positive, mutually-beneficial relationships between our industry and landholders is essential.

“The Territory’s oil and gas industry offers jobs, local contracts and diversified incomes for landholders, while upholding safety and operating responsibly to protect water and the environment.

“We are committed to playing our part to ensure all Territorians benefit from the development of their natural resources.”

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