by Gareth Hughes
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report on fracking entitled, “Evaluating the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand” was tabled today in Parliament.
The report, while not calling for a moratorium, raises enough red flags that it shouldn’t be seen as giving a green light to fracking.
The PCE’s report does not say that fracking in New Zealand is safe; the report concludes that fracking companies do not have a ‘social license’ to operate and that the regulation is fragmented and light-handed. The PCE has identified numerous ways in which fracking can cause environmental harm, and said, “the potential for important aquifers to be contaminated as a result of fracking is very real.” The report’s key recommendation is fracking can be effectively managed if best practice is enforced through regulation, but said at this stage she can’t be confident that operational best practices are actually being implemented and enforced in New Zealand.
I believe these are good arguments for a halt until better rules are enacted especially given the large expansion of fracking planned for New Zealand.
That’s why I am renewing my call for a moratorium on fracking and urging the Government and councils to take a safety-first approach until we have strong regulations in place to ensure the health of people and the environment.
Kiwis are right to be concerned about fracking’s environmental impact. What we’ve seen of fracking with less than 100 well sites in New Zealand, mostly in Taranaki, doesn’t provide much confidence in the status quo. We’ve seen fracking jobs being done without specific consent, returned fracking fluids dumped in a local stream in Southland, groundwater and soil contamination from storing fluids in unlined earthen pits, shallow fracking and fracking close to aquifers that increases the risk of water contamination, flaring of gas and fracking fluids from ground-level pits (a practice the head of Canadian fracking company Apache Corp. reportedly called abhorrent) and lack of scrutiny and transparency of fracking chemicals.
Renewable energy will always be cleaner and safer than fracking and is a better future for New Zealand.