Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Kimberley fracking plans deserve rigorous environmental assessment

By Wade Freeman - posted Friday, 20 June 2014


When a new extractive industry – particularly one as large, unproven and controversial as fracking – moves in to an area of high conservation value, you would think it would warrant a detailed examination and thorough assessment by the state government's environment protection agency. Apparently not in Western Australia in 2014.

WA's Environment Minister, Albert Jacob, has just dismissed 48 appeals to the decision of the state's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow Buru Energy to proceed with its large scale fracking program upstream from the National Heritage listed West Kimberley region without any formal environmental assessment.

Environment Minister Jacob has formally handballed the approval process to the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) – the very department charged with ensuring the viability and profitability of the mining industry, rather than enforcing environmental standards. The conflict of interest is clear for all to see.

Advertisement

Buru Energy has a poor track record, failing to follow even the DMP's regulatory conditions. Advice to the Minister recommends all Buru's relevant environmental monitoring information be made available in a timely manner to the DMP, as well as on its website. Yet earlier this year Buru refused to release its chemical risk assessment. The issue only became public after a parliamentary question about Buru's overflowed retention ponds.

Meanwhile Buru continues to wage a large scale PR campaign, spruiking the safety and viability of fracking. Its one-sided consultation and 'science' presentations have included community forums, an advertising blitz in local newspapers, as well as presentations in Broome high schools, angering parents and public education watchers.

Following Minister Jacob's decision this week, all public avenues to appeal against Buru's fracking plans appear closed. The state government is pushing the project ahead with unseemly haste. A WA parliamentary inquiry into the implications of hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas has not even been able to report its findings to the state parliament.

As the Federal government tries to unload national environmental approval power onto the states, in the name of cutting 'green tape', the states let departments of mines handle the approvals. Green tape is replaced with a rubber stamp. Tony Abbott's one stop shop for environmental approvals is starting to look more like a drive-through service staffed by the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

There is no doubt the process of fracking, or, more properly, hydraulic fracturing, is highly controversial. The process is currently banned in Victoria and France, and according to one of its early developers, Professor Anthony Ingraffea, involves an extremely energy intensive and extreme method of extraction. "In short, these techniques leak. You're producing more fossil fuels and the dirtiest fossil fuel at a time when we need to be cutting back, urgently," Prof Ingraffea said.

This is particularly alarming when one considers that the planned fracking would be occurring upstream from one of the most iconic and fragile natural ecosystems in Australia – the heritage listed West Kimberley.

Advertisement

To take the longer view, such shoddy process ultimately damages the companies themselves as well as the integrity of the state governments. Without proper assessment from an environmental agency the companies do not have anything resembling a true social licence to operate. Loss of social licence is lack of security and leads to shareholder loss of confidence.

As we witnessed in the case of the now abandoned gas hub project at James Price Point, Woodside and the WA Government suffered a huge setback when they tried to push through a controversial project via a flawed approvals process. Buru should take heed from that sorry chapter – if the government won't act responsibly the case is likely to be resolved through protracted court battles, years down the track.

If Buru wants to move into this place we love, then it's not unreasonable that its plans be reviewed by the only state department mandated to protect our environmental – the Environmental Protection Agency.

For the WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob not to insist on this layer of assessment, despite considerable public concern about the issue, is a denial of essential environmental process. The Kimberley region deserves much better.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

4 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Wade Freeman is Kimberley Project Officer for ACF and a long time Broome and Kimberley local. He has many years experience working and living in remote locations such as Mulan Aboriginal Community, Tanami Desert and Oecusse, East Timor. Wade is a post grad in Community Development at Murdoch University.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Wade Freeman

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Wade Freeman
Article Tools
Comment 4 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Deals from Sponsor
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy