A leaked expert report shows the Queensland Government was advised to stop further gas fracking in the state’s sensitive Channel Country, but a separate department had already extended gas exploration until 2030.
A confidential report to the Queensland Environment Department prepared by environmental scientists recommended that infrastructure for gas fracking and mining was “unacceptable” in the Lake Eyre Basin floodplains, known as the Channel Country.
The 47-page report, obtained by ABC News, lists scores of potential risks associated with so-called unconventional gas extraction, (also known as gas fracturing or fracking), including direct impacts on threatened species and water quality.
As ABC News revealed earlier this year, the Queensland Mines Department in March 2019 had approved Santos to keep exploring commercial gas opportunities in the area until 2030, despite an election commitment to protect “pristine rivers” and work with stakeholders.
A union of environmentalists, graziers, traditional owners and other stakeholders, known as the Western Rivers Alliance, said the promised consultation did not happen.
The report, recommending that further fracking for natural gas be stopped, was received by the Environment Department in October last year.
Professor Richard Kingsford, an expert on wetland management from the University of New South Wales, said the area was nationally and globally significant.
“Certainly the scientific evidence is that if you do allow infrastructure development on these floodplains, it’s inevitably going to change the course of water as it flows across these very flat areas,” he said.
“We’re talking about one of the … natural icons of not only Australia, but the world, when those rivers run.
“So even things like roads and gas pads, those sorts of things, change the sort of pristine nature of that system.”
But Professor Kingsford said he was concerned it was not being protected adequately.
“The concern is that that review does seem to have been fairly strong in its recommendations about protecting those floodplains … and we don’t seem to have that sort of protection currently,” he said.
Fracking in Lake Eyre Basin an ‘unacceptable risk’: Western Rivers Alliance
The coordinator for the Western Rivers Alliance, Riley Rocco, said it was disappointing the Government had not made the report public.
“It says … very clearly that fracking should be prohibited on the floodplains of the Channel Country, and that they have ignored that advice and gone ahead and put forward proposals of regulation that would continue to allow fracking on the floodplains,” Ms Rocco said.
“Fracking activities on the rivers and the floodplains of the Channel Country in the Lake Eyre Basin is just an unacceptable risk altogether.”
A spokeswoman for Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said “petroleum activities have been undertaken in the area for 40 years through many legislative frameworks”.
“This tenure and its accompanying environmental approvals were granted under the current laws,” the spokeswoman said.
A spokeswoman for Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Enoch said “as a general rule, the Government does not discuss Cabinet matters”.
“The Queensland Government is committed to working with traditional owners, stakeholders, environment groups and communities, to achieve a balance between the long-term protection of the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin and the cultural, social and economic priorities of the region,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Government will also work with other departments and government bodies as well as consider the wide range of information available regarding this topic to ensure the right balance is reached.”
This content was originally published here.