Environmental Protection. There have been no formal Environmental Impact Assessment of any fracking activities undertaken in WA. Yet the unconventional gas and fracking industry is still poised for massive industrialisation across Western Australia, with vast areas across the Kimberley, Canarvon food bowl, Mid West farmland and wildflower country under threat. We must learn from past examples in the United States and in Queensland before it's too late.
Impacts of unconventional gas operations:
1. Air pollution from a wide range of hazardous air pollutants released in venting and wastewater evaporation.
2. Loss of large areas of farmland and bushland from well pads, pipelines and roads.
3. Fugitive emissions from leaks in wells, pipes and infrastructure.
4. Contamination of underground water resources due to well casing failure.
5. Soil and water pollution from leakage and overflow of toxic wastewater from holding dams.
6. Soil and underground contamination from reinjection of improperly treated or untreated wastewater.
7. Pollution of wasteways from wastewater and chemical spils and release of improperly treated wastewater.
8. Migration of gas and toxic substances into groundwater through natural faults and fracking induced pathways.
9. Water, soil and crop contamination from reuse of improperly treated of untreated wastewater on farmland.
10. Noise and air pollution from trucks, drill rigs and machinery.
In the air. Governments cannot rely on shale gas as a relatively clean “bridge” from dirty fossil fuels to non-polluting renewable sources such as the sun, winds, waves and tides. Industry officials and some governments are promoting natural gas as a “clean, green” fuel, but studies show that fracked natural gas can produce as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as coal.
Gas fracking releases very high emissions of methane - a highly potent greenhouse gas. When these methane emissions are combined with the carbon pollution created when the gas is burned for energy, the overall pollution impact is just as high or higher than burning coal for energy.
Policies that are based on the fact that gas emits only half as much carbon dioxide as coal when it is burned do not take into account the leakage of methane and other greenhouse gases during the process. Gas wells require venting, meaning that air emissions occur in the form of fugitive gas releases. When these are added in, studies show, shale gas can create even more pollution than coal.
“The climate science is clear,” said The WWF Scotland Director Lang Banks. “The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground and unburned.
In the soil. Unconventional gas mining (fracking) is considered an 'unconventional' fossil fuel method, due to the need to use chemicals and other substances to help stimulate the release gas in tight gas. It also requires drilling down, and out horizontally, whereas conventional gas mining can trigger the release of gas by drilling without the use of additional stimulation.
A wide range of chemicals are used in fracking. Whilst the industry maintains that ‘most’ of these chemicals are found in household products, fracking compounds used in Australia have been shown to include many hazardous substances, including carcinogens, neurotoxins, irritants/sensitisers, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors. Many of the chemicals used in fracking have never been assessed for their long-term impacts on the environment and human health. (Ref: Lock the Gate - WA)
Industrialisation of unconventional gas and fracking has seen one single exploration gas well developed into ‘unconventional’ gasfields. This is why we are seeing the need for communities to delcare themselves "gasfield-free" rather than "frack-free". We could see over 100,000 wells drilled and fracked across WA. This would mean immense potential toxic pollution from heavy machinery, containment ponds and underground leaks - not to mention mass land clearing.
We've already seen land clearing of National Park in the South West of Western Australia at Whicher Range.
In the water. Fracking is a new and highly risky method of extracting underground gas. It involves pumping chemicals deep beneath our feet to crack open gas-carrying rocks with proven devastating outcomes for water tables. Each frack uses between 360 and 1,100 truckloads of water (or other fluids such as diesel in the case of Whicher Range), as well as sand and tonnes of toxic chemicals. We do not have this water to spare.
Large volumes of toxic waste water are produced in fracking operations with 15-80% of this waste returning to the surface and being stored in holding dams.These contaminants include heavy metals, radioactive materials, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and high concentrations of salts. Fracking waste water is usually disposed of through reinjection into aquifer formations, held in holding ponds for storage/evaporation, or partially ‘treated’ and reused or released into waterways. Leaking ponds, flood events or accidents during transportation can lead to contamination of local waterways and aquifers, threatening wildlife, agriculture and human health. (Ref: Lock the Gate WA.)