It has been approximately ten months since the WA Government enacted regulations to impose a total ban on hydraulic fracturing in the South West, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions, and implement a State-wide moratorium on fraccing while a scientific inquiry is conducted. Our previous article announced the commencement of the scientific inquiry in WA and noted the panel’s invitation for stakeholder and community engagement in the scientific inquiry process to inform of the potential impacts of fraccing on the environment, including heritage, human health and safety.
The WA scientific inquiry’s consultation process saw public submissions being received (available on the scientific inquiry website) with the panel also hosting public meetings across various regions of WA to consider perspectives and concerns of the wider community. This occurred at a particularly sensitive time with the Northern Territory Government opting to adopt all 135 of its own scientific inquiry’s recommendations and lift the moratorium on approximately 51% of the Territory while imposing a ban on fraccing on the remaining 49% in areas considered “frack-free zones” (such as national parks, towns and areas of high cultural, environmental or tourism value). The sheer number of the attendees at the public meetings around WA, and the multitude of written submissions from industry, community groups and individuals are indicative of the importance of the issue in WA.
Last month on 12 September 2018, the panel submitted the much anticipated report to the WA Government, taking into account the information and evidence from the public, along with broader scientific literature and expert opinion. The report will be made publically available once the Government has considered its findings and recommendations. We hope the report contains a sensible conclusion which balances the need to ensure future investment in the WA oil and gas industry whilst also responding to proven environmental impacts.