Inaugural Meeting Into Hydraulic Fracturing To Be Held On 8 December 2016

Inaugural Meeting Into Hydraulic Fracturing To Be Held On 8 December 2016

Northern Territory Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Lauren Moss

Hydraulic Fracturing: Final Terms Of Reference And Inquiry Panel Announced

Victor P Taffa

Honourable Justice Rachel Pepper will chair an independent scientific Inquiry into hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional reservoirs and associated activities in the Northern Territory, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Lauren Moss announced today.

Ms. Moss also announced that, following consideration of the public submissions received during government consultation on the draft terms of reference, the scope of the Inquiry has been broadened to include consideration of other activities that are associated with hydraulic fracturing, such as water acquisition and treatment of wastewater.

“The Inquiry fulfils the government’s election promise to take a thorough and considered approach to onshore gas in the Northern Territory, based on robust scientific evidence and community engagement.” Ms. Moss said.

“Members of the chosen expert panel have combined scientific experience of over 300 years in disciplines such as water, geology, ecology, health, sociology and engineering we are extremely fortunate to have such an eminent panel of experts to oversee such an important process of evidence gathering and community consultation.”

“This multi-disciplinary science-based approach to a hydraulic fracturing Inquiry, supported by such a diverse composition of panel expertise, is a first of its kind in Australia.”

Justice Pepper has been a judge of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court for the past seven years and is a highly regarded member of the judiciary. Justice Pepper will be responsible for leading the Inquiry and ensuring its impartiality.

The panel members are:

  • Dr. Alan Andersen
  • Peta Ashworth
  • Dr. Vaughan Beck
  • Ms. Jane Coram
  • Professor Barry Hart
  • Dr. David Jones
  • Professor Peter McCabe
  • Professor Brian Priestly
  • Dr. Ross Smith
  • Dr. David Ritchie

Ms. Moss said, where the draft terms of reference required the Inquiry to only consider the environmental risks and impacts of hydraulic fracturing, the final terms of reference have been significantly broadened.

“The final terms of reference now also require the Inquiry to consider other activities that are associated with hydraulic fracturing, such as the impact of groundwater use, chemicals and management of wastewater.” Ms. Moss said.

“In addition, the Inquiry will recommend a process for identifying priority areas for no go zones and will consider the economic, cultural and social impacts and risks of the onshore unconventional gas industry more broadly.”

“This means that the Inquiry must consider the impact of all exploration activities that are part of the onshore unconventional gas industry, including from a land access perspective, such as seismic surveys and aerial surveys.” Ms. Moss said.

“It must also consider the costs and benefits of the onshore unconventional gas industry.”

“In the course of its work, the panel may choose to undertake a social impact assessment or similar activity.”

Ms. Moss said Government had responded to the key issues raised in the public submissions on the draft terms of reference, which are available on the Inquiry website, together with the final terms of reference.

“The panel will actively seek the views of the community and encourage participation throughout the Inquiry, including feedback on an interim and final report.” Ms. Moss said.

“Community members are encouraged to register their details on the website to receive the latest news and updates as they come.”

The inaugural meeting of the panel will be held on 8 December 2016. The panel will determine the consultation schedule and proposed timeline of the Inquiry.

Upon completion of the Inquiry, government will consider the findings of the Inquiry.

A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of onshore unconventional reservoirs within the Northern Territory will remain in place for the term of the Inquiry.