What has Labor promised to change?
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek is rewriting our national environment laws by reforming the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, and will soon invite the public to share their opinions on what should be included. This consultation process is our chance to ensure that water, Country, and climate has strong protection now and in the future.
However, as Tamboran Resources is about to frack the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory, we need to fast track the expanded water trigger ahead of the rest of the reforms, as water is under immediate threat.
If the water trigger is expanded to cover shale gas fracking now, it means that water could be considered to be a ‘Matter of National Environmental Significance’ for these projects. If fracking proposals will – or are likely to – have a significant impact on water, they will undergo more rigorous assessment. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, this process could help delay or even stop fracking activities.
In the coming months, we will call for stronger climate protection in our new national environment laws too. Like making sure the Minister must consider climate change in her assessment and ensuring there’s room for legal challenges to ministerial decisions.
How does fracking put water at risk?
With its super-sized rigs known as ‘mega frackers’, Tamboran Resources is preparing to drill across hundreds of kilometres, use up to quadruple the amount of water than anything else in Australia, inject toxic forever chemicals into the ground, and release millions of tonnes of climate pollution – every single year.
In the United States, thousands of fracking wells were drilled before the regulations caught up. By the time they did, it was too late, and tonnes of cancer-causing chemicals were already in the land and water. Frackers are banking on the same situation taking place in Australia – but we won’t let it happen.
In the Northern Territory, fracking is in the so-called ‘exploration’ phase, where there are very few regulations - there’s no requirement to consult with Traditional Owners, minimise harm, or even secure a licence before selling fracked gas from exploration. It’s known as “production by stealth” – and sales are about to kick off.