In April 2018, NT Government accepted the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry, and announced they will lift the moratorium that has been holding back the industrial threats of the on-shore gas industry.
The fossil fuel companies and their supporters in the business press have welcomed this announcement as a ‘green light’. It’s even found some support among some local small businesses - concerned that successive governments have failed to plan and allocate for the inevitable economic bust that is now following the boom from the massive Inpex project.
But the vast majority of Territorians remain firmly opposed. This industry offers broad impact and high risk for relatively low value - and the panel’s report has failed to resolve community concerns that were aired over the course of the inquiry.
Big questions unanswered
The inquiry was unable to scope, let alone address, risks related to regional biodiversity, sustainable yield of the Beetaloo sub-basin and water contamination. So instead of proposing mitigation actions, these important concerns are relegated to regional assessments.
Fracking presents a massive carbon debt. The report offers little advice beyond recommending 'governments seek to ensure that there is no net increase' in emissions. With some understatement, the panel acknowledges this as ‘a challenging task’, and neglects to specify how an NT Government with no emissions target may cooperate with a federal government opposed to carbon pricing to realise this goal.
Now that the final report has landed, some are saying the horse has bolted.
But we know better.
12 years ago, we faced a uranium rush that saw the NT plastered in exploration licenses. A federal minister threatened to overpower the NT to force our hand. A Labor NT Government back pedalled from their election position to declare the Territory ‘open for business’. But opponents stood their ground, and fought off individual threats locally, on their own merits. Not one new uranium project got up, and today there’s no uranium mining in the NT.
We have every reason to expect a similar victory against fracking.
By accepting the Pepper inquiry’s recommendations, NT Government have lined up a number of hurdles which must be cleared before any further activity is approved. These represent, in part, a welcome opportunity to upgrade NT environmental law, and the Greens will be keeping a close eye on the reform agenda. We’ll also continue to amplify the voices of Territorians and NT communities who will ultimately prevail to ensure there is no fracking in the NT.
Government would like the public to misread the inquiry process as a final determination. But we know there’s a long road to go from a bad decision to a worse outcome. The Greens are committed to walk that road with Territorians, to protect NT land, water and climate, and leave that gas in the ground.
Next steps for a frack-free NT
In April 2018, NT Government accepted the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry. Some are saying the horse has bolted. But we know better.