Fracking set to resume in the Northern Territory as moratorium lifted

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Fracking set to resume in the Northern Territory as moratorium lifted

Fracking is set to resume in the Northern Territory, following the Government’s decision to lift a moratorium but enforce strict new laws and regulations on the industry.

Key points

  • The NT Government has lifted a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing
  • It will adopt 135 recommendations of a scientific inquiry, designed to bring risks down to acceptable levels
  • A number of “no-go” zones, where fracking is not allowed will be estsablished

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said all 135 recommendations of a recent scientific inquiry would be implemented in full, as he announced the decision on Tuesday morning.

He had imposed the moratorium before he was elected, saying the expansion of the resources industry depended “on the social approval of the people of the Northern Territory”.

A scientific inquiry led by Justice Rachel Pepper then spent 15 months investigating the issue, and found the risks of fracking could be reduced to acceptable levels if 135 recommendations were implemented in full.

Cabinet met yesterday ahead of the announcement this morning.

New laws for fracking industry

These new regulations on the industry will include having environmental management plans assessed by the NT Environmental Protection Authority and signed off by the environment minister.

There will be new requirements for pre-exploration, including codes of practice for well integrity, wastewater management frameworks and water licensing.

New requirements will also be introduced for pre-production, including developing new monitoring strategies, and further discussions with industry and pastoralists on land access requirements and compensation.

All environmental management plans will be released for public comment.

Broader judicial and merit review capabilities will be introduced, including third party appeals by stakeholders such as environmental and community groups, proponents and Aboriginal land councils.

There will also be new powers to sanction industry non-compliance and increased criminal penalties for environmental harm.

‘No-go zones’ introduced

Under the rules, fracking would be able to take place in 51 per cent of the Territory, with a number of “no-go” zones in place, including Indigenous protected areas, areas of environmental, cultural or agricultural significance and residential areas where there is some level of population density.

The Government said there would be no exploration for at least six months while data is collected for environmental modelling and regulatory changes are made, as per the inquiry’s recommendations.

A methane gas study will also be conducted before exploration begins.

It will be at least three years before production can begin because the Government has committed to further environmental studies.

The NT Government has also reached out to the Federal Government to partner with it in offsetting any additional emissions caused by a fracking industry.

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