Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, announced on Friday the extension of the NSW government’s moratorium on fracking until April 2012 pending the completion of an independent review process.
The moratorium, previously scheduled to end on 31 December, ‘will allow for the review and strengthening of existing standards for fracking in NSW, as well as the development of technical guidelines,’ according to a government media release.
It adds that the fracking standards are to be reviewed by industry experts and will also be peer reviewed by the NSW chief scientist and engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, prior to implementation.
Mr Hartcher said, ‘The NSW government recognises significant recent community concern over the potential for pollution of aquifers by the coal-seam gas industry as part of the fracking process’.
‘That’s why we’re proceeding with caution and making sure the proper frameworks are in place for the protection of our aquifers, our environment and our prime agricultural land.’
The review is considering local material with a particular focus on Queensland, as well as overseas standards in the US and Canada.
The NSW government is also currently reviewing the standards for coal-seam gas well integrity to ensure all activity is contained within the well and to prevent the potential escape of any gases or liquids.
The Greens NSW spokesperson on mining Jeremy Buckingham has cautiously welcomed the four-month extension of the moratorium.
‘Extending the ban on fracking is a sensible decision that the Greens welcome, but should be extended to the whole industry,’ said Mr Buckingham said on Friday.
‘Our water resources are precious and the precautionary approach to drilling and fracking is required, as the Senate Inquiry recently recommended.
‘The government must ensure that the review of fracking processes is transparent and accessible for the public.
‘The minister should clarify whether the fracking ban pertains to existing approvals such as AGL’s operations at Camden and Menangle Park.
‘While welcome, this announcement continues the piecemeal approach to coal-seam gas by the O’Farrell government.
‘What the community wants is a moratorium on the entire industry until the science is clear, strategic regional land use plans have been completed and accepted by the community, and the aquifer interference regulation has been finalised to the satisfaction of farmers and experts,’ he said.