Don't frack the NT
NT residents and families: this is a call to action!
A group of Northern Territory parents will be travelling to Canberra on the 8th of August to meet with federal Members of Parliament to raise our deep concerns about the expansion of the gas industry in the Northern Territory. In particular we are concerned about fracking in the Beetaloo, offshore gas and the Middle Arm development, which recent Freedom of Information (FOIs) documents have shown is a key enabler for opening up the Beetaloo gas reserve.
We want to take a message from you and your family to Canberra so we can show the Federal government there is a groundswell of opposition to new gas projects.
We have drafted this open letter , but more than just signing on we want to put together a visual representation of the communities and ordinary people that will be impacted by these industries. We want you to add a photo of your family, or a drawing from your kids, or a hand written message . We will compile these contributions into a book and present them to Federal MPs to show them we represent thousands of individuals and families across the NT.
For more information about the risks associated with this project keep scrolling 👇
THE OPEN LETTER
Dear federal parliamentarians and senators,
We are families and residents of the Northern Territory who are deeply concerned about the expansion of new gas developments and projects in our region. We are particularly concerned about what an expanded gas industry will mean for our kids and young people.
We are concerned about the threat this dangerous industry poses to all that we value including our safe drinking water, our safe climate, our cultural traditions, our country, our important wetlands and all our water-dependent ecosystems, our livelihoods and the health and wellbeing of our children.
We are calling on the federal government to act now to stop this industry from going ahead.
We are also calling on the federal Labor government to redirect the $1.5 billion of federal funding for the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct in Darwin Harbour. This project poses unacceptable health risks to the people of Darwin and Palmerston, and the project has been revealed as a key enabler for the expansion of the gas industry in the Northern Territory.
We strongly urge the federal Labor government to channel that funding towards projects that are genuinely sustainable and will not harm our kids and young people.
In addition and as a bare minimum we ask that:
- Federal and State and Territory Labor Ministers exert their influence in the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council to ensure Northern Territory gas companies offset scope 2 and 3 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and require that the NT government embed that as part of the production Environmental Management Plan process.
- If point 1) cannot be resolved by the Ministerial Council and recommendation 9.8 will be abandoned, then Minister Bowen should use his powers under the Safeguard Mechanism to require no offsets can be used for the Beetaloo, effectively blocking the project from proceeding.
- Implement a federal climate trigger through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
- Implement a federal water trigger through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act this year, as federal Labor already committed to when accepting the Beetaloo senate inquiry recommendations.
- Support a senate inquiry into the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct as federal Labor previously committed to.
We cannot develop or expand any new fossil fuel projects. That is the very clear message from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency. Doing so will harm our families and make much of the Northern Territory unliveable within the lifetime of our kids. We urge you to take immediate action.
The contributions within this book are from individuals, families and kids of the Northern Territory that will be impacted by fracking and new gas projects if they are allowed to go ahead. Everyone that has contributed to this book has agreed with this letter. We do not want any onshore fracking to occur in the Northern Territory, we do not want offshore gas projects and we do not want the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct. Please fulfil your moral obligations to ensure a safe future for Northern Territory kids.
UNDERSTAND THE RISKS
Fracking exploration leases cover a vast area of the Northern Territory (NT), and many parts of the NT could be under threat since the NT Labor government recently gave the greenlight to production. The area particularly rich in gas is the Beetaloo basin, which covers 28,000sq km around the Daly Waters region. If full-scale production goes ahead in this region, it could increase Australia’s annual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by up to 22%.
A recent report highlighted that within 70 years, temperatures in much of the North Western parts of Australia will be beyond the ‘human climate niche’. That means it will be too hot to live in many parts of the NT within the lifetime of our kids, if we don’t dramatically reduce emissions now.
In May, almost 100 scientists from across Australia signed an open letter to the NT Labor government urging them not to approve fracking because it will increase global warming and drive dangerous climate change.
NT and WA are the only two jurisdictions in Australia that have rising emissions, and the NT government has delayed the release of its carbon emissions report, which was due to be released in 2021.
Direct health impacts of fracking through air and water pollution:
The fracking process uses a cocktail of toxic chemicals and there is a risk they will enter ground and surface water. Contamination concerns have already been raised during the exploration phase, with leaking waste water ponds and contaminated water being used in dust suppression.
NT Chair of Doctors for the Environment, Dr Brooke Ah Shay has warned that “many of the chemicals found in shale gas wastewater have not been evaluated, are known carcinogens (that is, substances capable of causing cancer) and have the potential to cause harm. They can do this by impacting local water supplies and from air pollution.”
Recently, 46 current and former NT paediatricians signed an open letter to the NT Labor government urging them to reverse their decision on fracking due to the direct and indirect (climate) risks to children. The letter said, “studies have shown that children living near fracking operations in the USA have higher rates of low birth weight, birth defects, childhood cancers, and respiratory conditions.” The letter also highlighted that “children in NT remote communities already suffer from the highest rates of poverty-related illnesses in our country”, and that lack of access to clean running water exacerbates diseases such as rheumatic fever and sepsis. Most of the communities in the region are dependent on groundwater.
The process of fracking uses huge quantities of clean water and will reduce ground and surface water reserves significantly; impacting Aboriginal sacred sites, wetland, river and spring ecosystems and pastoral industries. Each well is estimated to use between eight to 12 Olympic swimming pools worth of water, and there could be as many as 6000 wells across the region. Despite this enormous amount of water use, the NT Labor government is only charging gas companies $3000 for water extraction licences.
The NT government’s draft water allocation plan for the Georgina Wiso Basin (which is the aquifer beneath the Beetaloo region) does not meet the National Water Initiative standards to which the NT is a party. This water allocation plan drove 18 eminent water scientists and water management experts from across the country to write a letter to the chief minister, where they described the water allocation plan as “poor and regressive”.
Climate change is already impacting rainfall patterns across the NT, with it being common to experience many poor wet seasons in a row, and we are now moving into an El Nino phase. First nations communities with songlines and oral histories, that narrate the travel of their ancestors and document the landscape, are warning that important water sites are drying out, bush foods are being impacted by climate change, and it is getting too hot.
First Nations rights
There is a pattern of misinformation and inadequate or total absence of consultation with First Nations groups around NT gas projects including Beetaloo, Middle Arm and offshore gas.
The NT Labor government recently claimed that traditional owners will have a right to veto gas projects proposed on their lands. This is simply not true. Most of the traditional owners and custodians of the lands in the Beetaloo region have non-exclusive Native Tittle rights, which does not give them the power to veto. Many First Nations families are opposed to fracking and are worried for their country, water, sacred sites and kids. The colonial systems in place do not give them control or power over their ancestrally inherited lands and waters.
There was a lack of proper consultation and failure to use trained interpreters during the negotiation of fracking exploration agreements. Additionally, the government’s cultural impact assessments have been inadequate, as highlighted by Dr David Ritchie, the independent overseer of the Pepper Inquiry .
In the case of Santos’ offshore gas project in the Barossa gasfield, Munupi clan’s people, from the Tiwi islands, were not consulted about the impacts of offshore drilling and underwater pipelines to their sea country, or the risk this poses to their coastal areas. The courts found that Munupi people were interested parties and proper consultation had not occurred. Munupi people are standing strong against Santos’ offshore gas plans.
Larrakia people have not been consulted about the Middle Arm development and hold concerns for important rock art and sacred sites.
The Middle Arm Development
Numerous documents, obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI), have demonstrated that the Middle Arm development is intended to create demand for gas from Beetaloo and to facilitate getting the gas from beetaloo and offshore gas projects to market. The Federal government has committed $1.5 billion taxpayer dollars to the Middle Arm development to build gas export terminals.
The Middle Arm development is a fossil fuel subsidy, and without this financial support from the federal government, Beetaloo gas production would not be viable, and the offshore gas projects are likely to be unviable as well.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is part of the Middle Arm development proposal to help deal with the GHG emissions generated from the site. However, CCS is unproven technology which, despite billions of dollars in funding globally, no project has ever come close to meeting its carbon capture targets. Australia’s highest emitting industrial facility, the Gorgon gas project in WA, was approved on the condition that it would store 4 million tonnes of Co2 a year. This project has barely reached a third of its CCS target. The Gorgon CCS project is the biggest CCS system in the world.
CCS is smoke and mirrors, used to justify dangerous fossil fuel expansions, while giving the illusion that emissions are being addressed.
In addition to the harm caused by GHG emissions that will be generated by the Middle Arm development, the site will also host a range of dangerous industries, which will carry significant risks, as the NT government’s own documents have identified. These include the potential for ‘significant impacts’ to sacred sites, air quality, marine environment quality, and terrestrial environment.
Part of the Middle Arm proposal is to use gas as a base compound for petrochemical manufacturing – this means making things like plastics and paints. Petrochemical manufacturing carries considerable human health risks and areas in the USA where petrochemical manufacturing occurs have been dubbed ‘cancer ally’.
The Environment Centre NT commissioned a study by USA Environmental Health and Policy expert Michael Petroni who, based on modelling of the Middle Arm development, suggested that “the Middle Arm Precinct may increase industrial fine particulate emissions by 513% in the region, resulting in $75 million of additional health impacts, equivalent to 15 additional premature deaths per year. It may also increase the industrial cancer hazard in the region four-fold due to releases of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic compounds and additional air toxins.”
 FOI document obtained by ABC see https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-29/beetaloo-basin-gas-field-could-jeopardise-paris-targets/12002164
 Seven news: https://7news.com.au/weather/climate-change/three-aussie-towns-to-become-unlivable-within-a-lifetime-due-to-climate-change-c-10763416
 Open letter, The Australia Institute https://nb.australiainstitute.org.au/end_fracking_in_the_nt_open_letter
 Independent overseer of the Pepper Inquiry implementation, Dr David Ritchie said said “there has been insufficient time to build the necessary relationships and level of trust necessary to meet the broad objective of the cultural impact assessment proposed in recommendation 11.8." https://hydraulicfracturing.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/1221181/dr-ritchies-final-letter-may2023.pdf
 Including impacts to sacred sites, air quality, marine environment quality, and terrestrial environmental quality https://ntepa.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/1092466/masdp-statement-of-reasons.pdf
 Michael Petroni report https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HWs16cO4YaDJP0maRtq-aJ4RcC3AcCRE/view