Review scrutiny on fraccing

Claire TyrrellCountryman
The West logo

A review on hydraulic fracturing in WA could result in tighter regulations on the controversial practice.

Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) is scrutinising regulations on hydraulic fracturing as part of a third party review.

Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fraccing', is the process by which unconventional gas deposits are extracted.

Fraccing has stirred extensive public debate in recent months, with mounting concerns about its potential adverse impact on WA water supplies.

DMP sought input from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and the departments of Water, Environment and Conservation, Health and Agriculture and Food in its review.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the review and the Government's response to it would be made public next month. "The purpose of the review was to gain feedback and input from other departments to complement the DMP's own research to facilitate the State Government's objectives of amending the current regulations to achieve best practice standards," Mr Moore said.

WA Greens MLC Alison Xamon welcomed the move, saying it reflected a change of tone by the minister.

"More than six months ago, the minister was adamant that current regulations on hydraulic fracturing were sufficient," she said.

"But now he has recognised that changes need to be implemented."

Ms Xamon accused the State Government of displaying a lack of transparency when it came to fraccing. She said the fact the DMP did not reveal the chemicals used in fraccing was a sign the process was dangerous.

Mr Moore said this secrecy was enshrined in legislation and the DMP was as transparent as it could be.

"Alison Xamon's claims of secrecy in regard to this issue are ridiculous," he said. "The State Government has ensured there is plenty of information publicly available on the DMP website, including the legislative framework.

"While current legislation restricts the department from releasing information submitted as applications for approval, it has been encouraging companies to make their environmental management plans public."

Petroleum companies fraccing in the Mid West - Australian Worldwide Exploration and Norwest Energy - have made their plans public.

Minister Moore said the State Government was reviewing the legislative framework in view of the aforementioned restrictions.

DMP is also in consultation with the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association to create a voluntary code of conduct for the fraccing industry.

Ms Xamon said a voluntary code would not suffice and regulations on petroleum companies should be a part of the law.

Hydraulic fracturing

·Fraccing has occurred in Dongara and other parts of the Mid West over the past few years.

·Mining companies are targeting unconventional gas deposits in the North Perth basin and the South West.

·Several WA fraccing projects have been referred to the EPA for assessment, putting the approvals process on hold.

·Fraccing has been banned in parts of the United States after chemicals involved in the process contaminated water supplies.

·WA growers have staged protests about the potential damage fraccing could cause to groundwater supplies.

·In New South Wales, a moratorium was imposed on fraccing to allow for a Senate inquiry to be conducted into coal seam gas mining.

·Queensland farmer Dayne Pratzky is leading the Lock Your Gate alliance, encouraging people to deny access to mining companies.

·The WA Greens called for a moratorium on fraccing until tighter regulations can be set.

·Unconventional gas deposits, comprising tight, shale and coal seam gas, are seen as part of WA's energy future.

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