Media release, News, The Fracking Inquiry

Call for WA Fracking Inquiry to release a draft report for public comment

WEDNESDAY, February 14, 2018: The Lock the Gate Alliance is urging the WA Fracking Inquiry to release an interim report of its findings that will be open to public comment prior to the publication of its final report later this year.

Lock the Gate will met with the inquiry panel this morning to put the case for the interim report and call for greater transparency and public input into the panel’s recommendations.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate in WA Jane Hammond said the WA Inquiry currently appeared to have no plans to produce an interim report and so members of the community would have no chance to cross-check its final recommendations.

“Communities across WA are looking to the inquiry to heed the overwhelming scientific evidence that fracking is a risky, unnecessary and dirty industry that threatens land, water and health,” Ms Hammond said.

“We are calling on the panel to give the public an open, fair and transparent hearing and the right to respond to any draft recommendations it makes.

“The NT fracking inquiry released an interim report that has enabled members of the public and the scientific community to highlight gaps in the document. We think that this is important to do in WA as well.

Ms Hammond said West Australians would have greater faith in the process of the fracking inquiry if it allowed a greater degree of public import.

“We are disappointed that the inquiry panel’s interaction with the public will be covered in just five half-day sessions across the length and breadth of WA and that these will be limited to registered participants only and will be closed to the media,” she said.

“The timeline for the inquiry is short and its budget small yet it is dealing with a question that has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people in regional WA.

“We are calling on the panel to give the public an open, fair and transparent hearing and the right to respond to any recommendations.”

The WA Fracking Inquiry is currently taking written submissions from the public. The submission period closes on March 19. So far thousands of emailed submissions have been received by the inquiry.

 

Read Lock the Gate’s oral submission to the inquiry below:

Spoken submission to the inquiry Wednesday February 14, 2018 11am

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with us today.

My name is Jane Hammond and I am the media coordinator and south west organiser for Lock the Gate in WA. I am also a filmmaker and use this skill to help communities tell their stories through documentary film and on camera interviews.

I have provided the inquiry with a copy of my film A Fractured State[1] which I ask that you take the time to view as it provides an overview of the issue in WA and the people whose lives your decisions and judgements will most effect.

This is after all, an issue that has a human face. While this is a scientific inquiry I ask that the panel not forget that science does not take place in a vacuum and that human lives and health are at the core of the questions this panel will deliberate upon.

I would also like to introduce my colleague Simone Van Hattem who is the Mid West, Gascoyne and Midlands coordinator for Lock the Gate in WA. Simone’s job involves travelling many thousands of kilometres meeting concerned farmers and pastoralists across the state.

Lock the Gate is a national grassroots community organisation made up of thousands of supporters and over 250 groups who are concerned with inappropriate mining across the nation.

In Western Australia, we are working with communities in the South West, Peel, Metro, Mid West, Gascoyne and Midlands regions as well as supporting communities in the Kimberley. In fact, my colleague Simone will be travelling to the Kimberley next week for workshops in Broome and will be visiting Yawuru elder Micklo Corpus who is continuing his remote three years -long vigil at the gates of a road that leads to the Yulleroo fracking wells that have been drilled on his land without the consent of the Yawuru people.

In Western Australia, our campaign has been focused on unconventional gas mining and fracking. In the few years that we have been working in WA we have seen 20 communities declare themselves Gasfield Free and many more are undergoing the process. These communities stretch from Exmouth in the north to Forest Grove in the south. Gasfield free Declarations are made after an extensive survey of residents in a community. Volunteers go house by house, road by road asking their neighbours if they would like their area declared gasfield free. The response is overwhelmingly positive with the usual tally coming in at 95 per cent or more of the community wanting to take a strong stand.

I am outlining this to give the inquiry an understanding of the feeling about unconventional gas and fracking in regional WA. Communities are not being caught unaware by this threat. They have seen the problems in the US shale and tight gasfields and the bullying and invasion by the CSG industry in Queensland and they are standing up and saying No. In increasing numbers, they are Locking their Gates to the unconventional gas industry and standing up to protect their land, water, communities and their health and that of their children.

In WA, we have a unique situation that makes fracking even more unnecessary, unaffordable and risky than in other places. Our water is central to this debate and is at the forefront of concerns in regional WA.

The science is showing us that we are drying out.[2] By the middle of this century the modelling, supported by the Australian Government’s Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science,[3] is telling us that our rainfall in the south-western regions of the state, and by that, I mean the area including Perth and north to Geraldton, will be 40 per cent less than it is today.

Our stream flows are in trouble as are the needs from the environment for water resources.

Meanwhile we are increasing in population.

Perth may not have enough to drink in 50 years or less according to the modelling.

We could see a Cape Town style Day Zero happening right here in our city within a few decades unless we take action to protect our water resources.

 

Central to Perth’s water supplies and its future are the health of our groundwater resources.

Unlike many other places most West Australians can name their aquifers, so central is groundwater to our lives and livelihoods. The Yarragadee aquifer is one of WA’s favourites. It is an icon to West Australians. Yet even in our precious Margaret River wine growing area we have seen fracking through our favourite aquifer. The story of the Whicher Range in WA’s south west stands as a classic example of regulations that were inadequate and soon outdated.

Whicher Range well number 5 was fracked in 2004 using diesel as the fracking fluid. This is in a Priority One Water catchment area just 2km from the actual Margaret River. The fracking experiment failed. The gas couldn’t come out of the well and neither could the diesel. Reports to the Australian Stock Exchange from the company Amity Oil[4] show that more than half a million litres of diesel remains trapped down the well. Hansard records debate in state parliament and questions in the Upper House that also confirm these figures.[5]  We can’t find any evidence of any plans to remediate that well. Just recently the company behind the current plans to get the gas out of Whicher announced that they would be cementing shut Whicher wells 1 and 4 and pulling out of the gasfield. [6]

 

Diesel fracking is no longer allowed in WA, as the inquiry’s background papers point out, but just 14 years ago it was. This shows how regulations soon become outdated as science shows their folly. Fracking bans are now in place over the South West, Peel and Metro regions but those bans are only protected by Ministerial decree not an Act of Parliament, which is why we have been calling for the South West, Peel and Metro regions to be included in the inquiry’s deliberations.

We understand the argument that the geology doesn’t support fracking in the south west but we also know that petrochemical engineers around the world are looking at ways to get over this technical issue [7]and as a result we fear that fracking may be something that can and does happen in the future unless there is a statewide ban or the current SW bans are protected by an Act of parliament.

Getting back to why WA is so unique we need to look at why our climate is drying here and why it is among the most impacted regions in Australia. The answer is human induced climate change. That issue is not in dispute.

Our submission will contain the appropriate references to back up the details of the drying climate and outline the unique factors that make WA so prone to this impact.

 

Suffice to say today that this brings us to the issue of GHG emissions and a look at how much a fracking industry in WA might add to the nation’s emissions load.

A paper released last year by Murdoch University scientists [8]examined the greenhouse gas emissions from fracking in WA, cradle to grave. It found that if all of the known shale and tight gas deposits were exploited and exported the emissions created would be almost as much as that for the entire nation in 2014, a total of around 502 MT CO2 equivalent.

And that would be for every year for the next 20 years, the approximate life of the industry. The scientists also calculated the emissions load if the gas was not exported but used locally. The figures were still alarming, coming in at 245MTCO2 equivalent.[9]

Professor Tony Ingraffea from Cornell University, gave evidence via skype to the South Australian Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee investigating fracking in December 2015.[10] A record of his evidence can be found in Hansard. He made an important point in asking the committee to consider its approach to greenhouse gas emissions. Prof Ingraffea noted that fundamental to the Paris Agreement was the need to decrease fossil fuel developments. He told the SA Parliament that science is already showing us that we need to keep roughly three quarters of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground if we are to meet our climate-change objectives. He noted that South Australia had already done its part to develop fossil fuels in the north east of the state, so it should really consider whether it should develop any more.

In the case of WA, the argument is similar. We have a large greenhouse gas footprint already [11]with developments off the coast of WA including Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project that was supposed to have developed a means of carbon capture. But as The West Australian reported in December last year, start-up problems and leaky valves mean that the project will pump an additional 5 to 7 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere than first thought. [12]These are unbudgeted emissions demonstrate the need for caution in not only assuming carbon capture will be a cure all but also that we have already spent quite a bit of our global emissions quota.  The West reported that the vented gas from the Chevron hiccup (as they called it in the headline) was equivalent to all of Collies’ coal-fired power stations for about seven to ten months.

Given that human induced climate change is the cause of the drying out of WA surely, we owe it to ourselves, not only the rest of the world to act quickly and reduce our carbon footprint. Going down the fracking path will push us further away from our Paris Climate target to reduce emissions 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels.[13]

—-

I would like to refer the panel to three important sources of peer reviewed science that warn of the health, climate, water, air, land and social issues surrounding the fracking industry.

 

These sources contain a wealth of data that points to multiple reasons why fracking is simply not worth the risk.

 

These sources are:

 

  1. The New York State Department of Health Public Health Review[14] of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing, released in December 2014. When this document was released the Acting Commisisoner for the DOH in NY Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that high-volume hydraulic fracturing should not move forward in New York State. Dr. Zucker was quoted in a media release issued by the NY State Dept of Health saying: “I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered.. I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

 

 

  1. The second is the:

 

Repository for Oil and Gas Energy Research (ROGER) [15]put together by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Health Energy, known as PSE. PSE is a multidisciplinary, nonprofit research institute that studies the way energy production and use impact public health and the environment. The group has an extensive searchable data base containing more than 1400 papers many of them concerning issues with shale and tight gas development.

 

The database can be found here: https://www.psehealthyenergy.org/our-work/shale-gas-research-library/

 

 

And thirdly:

The New York based health organization, the Concerned Health Professionals of New York, have compiled the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking[16] . Known simply as The Compendium it is a fully-referenced compilation of the evidence for the risks and harms of fracking that brings together findings from the scientific and medical literature, government and industry reports, and journalistic investigation.”  http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

—-

ROGER is an online resource but I have downloaded both The Compendium and the NYS Department of Health Review and present this to the inquiry today on this memory stick. Included with these documents is another important paper –  A 2016 review of the peer reviewed scientific literature on the environmental and public health impacts of unconventional gas published in PLOS One by Hays & Shonkoff.[17] The paper found that at least 685 papers had been published in peer reviewed scientific journals that were relevant to assessing the impacts of unconventional gas development. Of these:

* 84 %of public health studies contained findings that indicated public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes.

* 69 % of water quality studies contained findings that indicated potential positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination

and

* 87 % of air quality studies contained findings that indicated elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations

We would urge the inquiry to begin its deliberations with a literature review of the evidence already collated in these repositories, reviews and papers. The science is clearly telling us that caution is required with this industry.

The evidence is there and you now have it before you.

Around the world we have seen many nations and states introducing bans, moratoria or partial bans as the result of the growing evidence of actual harm, and the potential environmental and health risks from shale gas development. Governments that has so far taken decisive action include: Scotland, Wales, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and France as well as the US States of New York, Maryland, Florida and Vermont and the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

We believe that given the overwhelming evidence at the very least the inquiry should consider recommending a ban on fracking in WA.

 

We are today calling on the panel to commit to the release of a draft final report or interim report prior to the release of its final report and that this draft be open to public comment and submission.

We have seen this process working in the NT and believe it gives greater transparency to the process of the panel deliberations and will create great public confidence its findings.

We think that this is a good way for independent scientists to assess the evidence the panel thinks relevant and point out any missing pieces of information that could add value to the panels’ deliberations.

In addition, we would ask that the inquiry consider visiting communities on the frontline of the fracking threat to understand the human cost and implications of this industry. We would request that these meetings be more community focused and open to all members of the community without the need to register and sit behind closed doors. We take as our model the community visits that the NT Fracking inquiry made including to remote Indigenous communities.

We also understand that the inquiry has received a request from communities in the Kimberley to move the date of the current public hearings in the Kimberley due to flooding and the possibility that the meetings may be hard to access for some remote communities if the flood waters have not receded in time. We support this request and urge you to consider it.

——–

 

In conclusion, we urge you to listen to the people of WA and their calls to put the brakes on the fracking industry. It is a dirty, risky, outdated industry that we don’t need or want. If we go down the path of fracking we put at risk our farmland, our people, our water, our cultural heritage and our ability to keep our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We can see no argument for having this industry. We have abundant renewable energy and a clear conflict in resource use: Do we want to protect our groundwater for current farming and future use?

Or do we want to put that at risk in the hope nothing goes wrong?  In the hope that the industry can be trusted. And in the hope that taxpayers can find the cash to fund sufficient regulators to monitor the thousands of gas wells that would pock our landscape for 20 years of operation and for the decades after they are decommissioned.

 

Thankyou

 

We are available to answer any questions you may have or to clarify any points.

[1] https://www.dontfrackwa.com.au/2017/12/18/afracturedstate/

[2] Regional rainfall decline in Australia attributed to anthropogenic greenhouse gases and ozone levels Thomas L. Delworth & Fanrong ZengNature Geoscience volume 7, pages 583–587 (2014) https://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo2201

[3] https://www.climatescience.org.au/content/753-climate-change-dries-out-wa Climate change dries out WA ARC Centre for Excellence in Climate Change July 18, 2017

[4] ASX Announcement Amity Oil Sept 8, 2004 http://www.antaresenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2004-09-08ASXSYD7526HMM_WR-5.pdf

[5] Questions on Notice WA Parliament Oct 31, 2013 http://parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/pquest.nsf/3f9c0f35f2b504544825718e001105c9/86d6726c431cc54648257c14002c6587?OpenDocument

[6] http://www.calenergyresources.com/australia/

[7] tps://www.onepetro.org/conference-paper/SPE-188085-MS

[8] https://www.rees-journal.org/articles/rees/pdf/2017/01/rees170014s.pdf

[9] ibid

[10] http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015-12-04-Tony-Ingraffea-Nat-Resource-Committee-Hansard-Adelaide.pdf

[11] http://ageis.climatechange.gov.au/SGGI.aspx (86MT Co2e 2015)

[12] https://thewest.com.au/business/oil-gas/carbon-hiccup-for-chevron-with-5-million-tonne-greenhouse-gas-problem-at-gorgon-lng-plant-ng-b88694565z

[13] http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/publications/factsheet-australias-2030-climate-change-target

[14] https://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf

[15] https://www.psehealthyenergy.org/our-work/shale-gas-research-library/

[16] Concerned Health Professionals of New York & Physicians for Social Responsibility. (2016, November 17). Compendium of scientific, medical, and media findings demonstrating risks and harms of fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction) (4th ed.). http://concernedhealthny.org/compendium/

[17] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154164