Fracking is set to resume in the Northern Territory, with the Territory government finalising a Code of Practice for gas companies.

The NT Government went back on its 2016 election promise by lifting the ban on fracking in April 2018. It has now approved Origin Energy’s plan for a test well and construction for seismic testing.  An independent scientific inquiry that was launched to investigate the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing in the NT issued 137 recommendations to be implemented if fracking was to go ahead.

The move came after pressure from the federal government which threatened to cut GST revenue for states not “getting on and doing things”. Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on NT chief minister Michael Gunner to “pull the trigger… we need that gas”, claiming the country’s east coast faces a looming gas shortage.

Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground to force out gas. Fracking has been proven to be ecologically catastrophic with pipeline spills spreading chemicals everywhere. The Dakota pipeline in the US has produced a 200,000 gallon oil spill.  

Already 51 per cent of the NT is covered in oil and gas licenses as a mineral resource hunt takes place.  

Alawa grandmother and traditional owner for land under exploration by Origin said, “Our livelihood relies on lots of good country and clean fresh water, but all that is at risk if Origin forces fracking gas fields over the top of us”. Community consultations showed that there was support for a territory-wide fracking ban.

Indigenous Youth climate network SEED has been on the ground contesting these developments; arguing that not only is fracking a threat to the environment but a threat to the communities living there linking the struggles between climate and inequality.      

The NT government’s scientific inquiry found that opening up fracking in the NT would increase Australia’s total emissions by 6.6 per cent. But we need to drastically reduce carbon emissions to net zero within 20 years.

Instead of expanding fossil fuel extraction we need a transition to renewable energy sources. 

The NT has great potential for renewable energy. Beyond Zero Emissions’s “Ten Gigawatt plan” argues that the NT could not just be an energy powerhouse for Australia, but export power into Asia. Investors are already discussing a plan to export solar power to Singapore.

The NT could be another giant mine with limited job prospects or an oasis for employment, taking the urgent action we so badly need on climate change.

By Tooba Anwar

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