The Northern Territory paves the way for fracking to begin in the Betalo Basin

The Northern Territory government says it is satisfied that recommendations from an independent inquiry into fracking have been met, paving the way for gas production and well expansion across the Bethaloo basin.

The prime minister of the NT, Natasha Fyles, announced on Wednesday morning that her government was giving the green light to the production of gas in the region between Katherine and Tennant Creek, a movement of environmental organizations and scientists warning that there will be an unacceptable impact on the climate.

Wednesday’s announcement means gas companies can apply for production licenses and environmental impact assessments.

“Together with our world-class renewable resources, our potential onshore gas resources will support the energy transition to renewable energy not only for the Northern Territory, but for Australia and the world,” Fyles said.

The territory’s deputy premier, Nicole Manison, said, “We want nations to be able to decarbonise the economy in a safe and sustainable way and gas will be an important transition fuel, the onshore gas industry will also be good for the economy of the territory. “

Companies will still have to make financial decisions about whether to continue, but if the Beetaloo goes into full production it could see thousands of wells across the landscape.

An analysis by Reputex in 2021 estimated that a high production scenario in the Beetaloo could lead to an additional 1.4 billion tonnes of lifetime emissions – including emissions from the time the gas is sold and used – over 20 years.

On Wednesday, 96 scientists published an open letter calling on the Northern Territory government to ban unconventional gas projects because of their effects on the climate.

The International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said that no new coal and gas projects can go ahead if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5C.

“This is a very sad day for the Northern Territory. As we look down the barrel of climate change here in the Northern Territory, the Prime Minister has today given the green light to a carbon bomb that will hurt us towards climate collapse,” Kirsty Hovey, executive director of the Center Environment. NT, said.

Environmental groups said that despite the government’s announcement, some of the 135 recommendations from the Pepper inquiry in 2018 had not been met, which Howey said was a broken promise to Finish and an “unacceptable capitulation” to the gas industry.

They include an expansion of the water trigger, which the Albanian government has proposed but not yet enacted into law, a comprehensive assessment of the likely cultural impacts of fracking on First Nations people and cultural rights, and the provision of “reliable, accessible, reliable and accurate ” to Aboriginal People about fracking.

They said recommendation 9.8 – which requires the NT and federal governments to ensure there is no net increase in lifetime greenhouse gas emissions in Australia from gas projects in the Beetaloo – was also not met.

Traditional owner and chairman of the Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation, Johnny Wilson, said “the government has broken its promise to us that it would implement all the recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry before fracking starts”.

“Fracking companies are still not listening to the wishes of Traditional Owners who don’t want thousands of flaring wells destroying our land,” he said.

Gateway Alliance National Coordinator Carmel Flint urged the Albanian government to meet water and climate commitments and “step in and stop the NT government jumping the gun on a dangerous rush to fracking”.

Flint said that while the water trigger was promised to be extended to all types of rare gas it was not yet law, with amendments to Australia’s environmental laws still to be drafted.

She said the issue of how to implement greenhouse gas controls in the Beetaloo was brought to the Ministerial Council for Energy and Climate Change only a month ago.

Changes to the safeguards mechanism passed by federal parliament last month require scope 1 – direct on-site emissions – for Beetaloo projects to be net zero.

Environmental groups said this did not address all of proposal 9.8 which requires domestic scope 2 – the energy used by gas companies – and scope 3 emissions – when the gas is sold and burned – to also be net zero.

Fyles disagreed on Wednesday that 9.8 was not met, telling a media conference that “we have fully met the recommendation”. She later said she acknowledged the need to work with the Commonwealth government on scope 2 and 3 emissions.

A spokeswoman for Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said the expansion of the water trigger was part of the government’s environmental reforms and draft legislation would be released for consultation later this year.

An opinion is being sought from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

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