Government Flying Blind on Fracking Chemicals
Fremantle Independent MP Adele Carles has called for a moratorium on the use of hydraulic drilling and fracturing chemicals, or ‘fracking chemicals’, which are used to access unconventional gas sources in Western Australia including coal seam gas, until they have been fully assessed by federal regulators.
Ms Carles has presented a grievance motion to Environment Minister Bill Marmion in State Parliament, urging the Government to follow the lead of their NSW colleagues and place a ban on fracking operations until its safety can be assured.
”None of the 23 chemicals most commonly used in this industry have been assessed for environmental or public health impacts and until these assessments are complete, all governments and industry are flying blind,” Ms Carles said.
“A moratorium will ensure that Federal agencies have time to provide sound scientific advice to State environmental agencies on the hazards of these fracking chemicals and their public health and environmental impacts.”
Ms Carles said her concerns have been echoed by the Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor who has warned of “fairly dire” consequences for governments and industry if the community’s concerns over fracking aren’t taken seriously.
The Fremantle MLA said at the moment, the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) and Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) can’t assess the impacts of ‘fracking’ on groundwater because it has no idea of the toxicity and behaviour of the chemicals involved.
“We also have a dysfunctional regulatory system which is neither auditing nor enforcing environmental impacts of conventional mining – let alone fracking operations,” the Independent MP said.
“If we can’t assess it and we can’t regulate it, we shouldn’t be approving it, even more so when our major water resources are at stake.”
A report released this week looking at the current legislation that applies to the shale and coal seam gas industry in WA found the current legislation needs tightening.
The review by Queensland Law Professor Dr Tina Hunter made a number of recommendations, including the introduction of new environmental regulations within the Act for the industry, and for the compulsory publication of the chemicals used in the fracking process.
The State Government has indicated it will accept all of the report’s major recommendations, saying it will seek full disclosure of the chemicals used by the industry, and promising new environmental rules to be released by the end of the year.
But Adele Carles says disclosure without assessment is meaningless.
“The report further vindicates my call for a moratorium. It seems to me that given the Government has accepted the report’s recommendations, it would be prudent to establish a moratorium until they get their house in order,” she said.