Australia: loophole to remove environmental impact study from fracking

The Sydney Morning Herald have reported that in Australia, an amendment to existing legislation, which is up for public consultation, will provide a loophole within which unconventional shale gas extraction can take place without a full Environmental Impact Study.

The result of which would allow fracking closer to local residences.

FRACKING

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The government plans to modify the State Environmental Planning Policy in a way that may allow AGL to carry out hydraulic fracturing – usually referred to fracking – close to homes in the Gloucester area of the Hunter region without completing a full environmental impact study.
A similar large-scale drilling project planned for western Sydney was ruled out in 2013, partly as a result of its proximity to homes near Liverpool, Campbelltown and Camden.
Local opponents say fracking of existing wells, or the drilling of new ones nearby, can have unforeseen consequences on aquifers as the 1000-metre deep wells intersect with fault lines.

They say the proposed amendment, open for public comment until July 16, appears specifically designed to enable AGL to do exploratory fracking at four gas wells near family homes without an EIS.
Under existing rules, since the proposed wells are within three kilometres of an existing one, they are deemed a state-significant development requiring an EIS. The rule change, however, will measure the three kilometres from the geometric centre of the new wells, not from the nearest one.
“The absurdity, if this goes ahead, is that you could design a set of wells in such a way that some of the wells you propose to frack could be within just a few metres of existing wells,” said John Watts, a spokesman for Groundswell Gloucester. “It is the closeness of the wells that could cause a problem, not the closeness to the centre point.”
Fracking involves the injection of a mix of sand and chemicals under high pressure to create small fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas to migrate to the well. The closeness of wells to homes in the Camden area was one reason the government curtailed AGL’s CSG plans in south-west Sydney.
“The government considered the amendment to be minor,” a spokesman for Planning Minister Pru Goward said. “The amendment creates certainty for industry and the community” by removing “ambiguous” wording in the policy, he said.

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