26 February, 2021
Fracking in the far west
The door has been opened for hydraulic fracturing to be performed in far western NSW, which poses a risk to ground water sources and ecological sustainability. The prospect has reignited debates around water security and the lingering threat of petroleum exploration licenses in western NSW.
The NSW government has once again put fracking the far west on the table. The planning department announced that it was exploring the possibility of releasing three large sections of land between Hillston, Cobar, Wilcannia, Ivanhoe and Broken Hill to conventional and unconventional tight gas exploration. This was done under the direction of the government’s Advisory Board for Strategic Release.
Tight gas is difficult to access and in order for it to be extracted, gas companies would need to use hydraulic fracturing. This also brings another heated topic to the fore once more: petroleum exploration licences (PELS).
A number of PELS still hang over communities across NSW, with many community groups and local councils calling for them to be extinguished.
Lock The Gate spokesperson Georgina Woods said the news was concerning, especially given the state of the Darling-Baarka River system.
“The Berejiklian-Barilaro government has failed to extinguish zombie petroleum licences in the state’s north west and is now gearing up to put the already-stressed Darling River system in the line of fracking fire,” Ms Woods said.
“Exploitation for gas will industrialise the landscape and intensify water stress.
“The government should be extinguishing all zombie PELs in line with what its own National Party members voted for in 2019, not opening up entirely new tenements, and focussing on economic opportunities that don’t worsen water security fears.
“Fracking gasfields require millions of litres of water and produce millions of tonnes of waste. In Queensland, barely-regulated unconventional gasfield expansion has led to the Condamine River bubbling with methane and old coal exploration boreholes acting as conduits to bring gas and salty water to the surface. This industry would do horrendous damage to the already suffering Darling-Baarka River system,” Ms Woods said.
Member for Barwon, Roy Butler said he was also dismayed by the news saying the proposal “does not have my support”.
“I do not support any extractive industry that puts our ground and surface water at risk and opening up this land for gas would do just that,” said Mr Butler.
“Frankly I am disgusted at the manner in which the government has chosen to announce this exploration, by stealth, with the community only able to have their say if they’re registered to do so," Mr Butler said.
"Water is our most precious resource, everyone deserves to be able to have their say on development that will put this resource at risk.
“I have written to the planning minister and minister for regional NSW expressing in the strongest terms my opposition to this project and the way the public consultation is being conducted, my communities deserve to be treated much better than they have been by this government.”