AMMA has welcomed the Northern Territory government’s decision to lift the state’s fracking moratorium.

The overturning of an 18-month blanket moratorium opens up potential development of underground gas resources in the resource-rich state.

The decision comes under strict new laws and regulations and follows the findings from The Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracking in the Northern Territory, chaired by Justice Rachel Pepper.

The 15-month scientific inquiry reported the risk involved with fracking could be reduced to an acceptable level.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner today announced the Northern Territory Government had accepted all 135 recommendations of the final report handed down as part of the independent fracking inquiry.

Mr Gunner said the announcement would pave the way for new jobs, while protecting the environment for generations to come.

“We have also accepted the Inquiry’s advice about no go zones and coupled with areas where there is no petroleum potential, 49% of the Territory will be frack free, including in National Parks, Conservation Areas, Indigenous Protected Areas, towns, residential and strategic assets, and areas of high cultural, environmental or tourism value,” he said.

“In the remainder of the Territory, strict new laws and regulations will be put in place to ensure that when fracking takes place, we protect the environment, the cultures and lifestyles that rely on it, and the many tourism, pastoral and agricultural jobs that depend on it.”

Some of the key elements of these new laws and regulations include:

  • Ensuring all Environmental Management Plans for fracking must be assessed by the EPA and signed off by the Minister for the Environment;
  • Strict new requirements that must be met before exploration approval is granted including codes of practice for well integrity and well decommissioning, development of wastewater management frameworks, the requirement for gas companies to obtain a water license;
  • Strict new requirements that must be met before production can take place including the development of robust and transparent monitoring strategies, discussions with industry and pastoralists regarding land access requirements and compensation, and release of all environmental management plans for public comment;
  • Broad standing to seek judicial and merits review of statutory decisions;
  • Broad new powers to sanction non-compliance, civil enforcement proceedings and increased criminal penalties for environmental harm.

An independent officer will be appointed to oversight the implementation of all 135 recommendations.

As part of lifting the ban, Mr Gunner said he wanted to mitigate concerns about increased greenhouse gas emissions from fracking and as recommended by the inquiry, has written to the Prime Minister and the Federal Leader of the Opposition seeking their agreement to partner with the state in offsetting all additional emissions.

Work on a detailed implementation plan for the 135 recommendations of the Final Report will begin immediately and be completed and released to the public in July this year.

AMMA will continue to advocate for the important role of gas exploration and extraction in creating direct and indirect job opportunities, and supporting the living standards of Australian communities.