WA fracking projects to come under greater environmental scrutiny under Labor proposal

Western Australia’s Frack Free Future campaign has welcomed a commitment by Federal Labor to more closely scrutinise the impact fracking has on water resources.

Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler announced yesterday that, if elected, a Shorten Labor Government would extend the existing ‘water trigger’ to ensure shale and tight formation gas projects are rigorously assessed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, if they impact water resources.

Western Australia’s frackable gas resources are held in shale and tight formations. Labor’s proposal would ensure that the impact of WA fracking projects on water resources is examined as closely as the impact of coal seam gas fracking projects in Queensland, which are currently covered by the water trigger.

Frack Free Future spokesperson Jules Kirby said Labor’s commitment recognised the risk fracking posed in Western Australia.

“This commitment from the ALP acknowledges that the type of gas fracking proposed in Western Australia can be equally or more damaging to groundwater than the coal seam gas projects which have caused so many problems in Queensland,” Mr Kirby said.

“Applying commonwealth legislation to shale and tight gas proposals in WA would add a much-needed level of scrutiny to the assessment of these proposals.  So far, gas fracking has been exempt from pollution control regulations and environmental impact assessment in WA.

"For the first time, we would see some efforts to examine the impacts of fracking on groundwater in WA and that would be a welcome step forward from the exemptions and secrecy surrounding the industry at present.”

Mr Kirby said the technology used to frack for shale gas posed unacceptable risk to water resources.

“If the fracking industry is fully developed in WA, tens of thousands of fracking wells will be drilled through our underground water resources to access the shale gas underneath,” he said.

“Around the world, one in 20 fracking wells have failed in the first year alone, meaning the water resources local households, farms and businesses depend upon will be exposed to both immediate and ongoing risk.

“Only a handful of gas wells have been drilled in Western Australia, using new, high pressure fracking technology, and almost all of them have had problems.

“In the Kimberley, the waste water pond at the Yulleroo 3 well overflowed, with toxic chemicals escaping and seeping into the ground.

“Near Eneabba, the Woodada Wells are being drilled in a nature reserve, just 500 meters from a lake.

“Just north of Perth, drilling at the Warro 3 & 4 wells was abandoned after hitting a high pressure artesian aquifer.

“Federal Labor’s proposal will close a loophole that currently allows WA’s accident prone, polluting fracking industry to drill for gas without stopping to check how local water supplies will be affected.

“We call upon both the National Party and Liberal Party to outline whether they support extending the water trigger to cover WA fracking projects. 

“If they don’t, we call on them to outline what they will do to ensure WA’s precious water resources are protected from the impacts of this toxic industry.”

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