The NT Government has been accused of ignoring expert advice to protect the NT from possible accidents caused by fracking.
The Government faces criticism for re-interpreting key recommendations of the long-running Justice Rachel Pepper's inquiry into the development of onshore gas industry.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner last year lifted the moratorium on the development of an onshore gas industry saying the NT was protected by the expert work done by the Pepper inquiry.
Mr Gunner promised all 135 recommendations of the inquiry "would be implemented in full".
But now the government has been accused of walking away from that promise.
The government's proposed set of instructions for gas companies, its draft Code of Practice for Onshore Petroleum Activities, does not appear to follow the Pepper recommendations.
Anti-fracking group, Lock the Gate, says it has found one of the recommendations in the draft code is quite different to that of the Pepper inquiry.
The inquiry recommended all tanks on the well site which fracking wastewater should be enclosed.
The following is from the NT Government's own "plain English" version of the inquiry - "The Inquiry says that the Government and gas companies need to get a good plan to get rid of the waste and wastewater. Until the wastewater can be removed, it must be stored in closed tanks (Recommendations 5.5 and 5.6)."
The proposed code now says the wastewater tanks can be open to the air.
Wastewater can also be be in covered tanks for just part of the year.
There are other conditions in the proposed code which only require enclosed tanks if the wastewater is "held on site for longer than two weeks" or said that wastewater could be "transferred", or tanks just need a "retractable cover".
The code talks about balancing the risk of rain with open tanks.
The 15-month Pepper inquiry was clear about its experts believed caused the greatest risk from onshore gas development.
"... international studies have shown that the greatest risk to human health and the environment is from spills or releases of chemicals during surface activities, such as transport, handling, storage, and the mixing of chemicals."
Its recommendation - (7.12) says "... enclosed tanks must be used to hold all wastewater".
The final report also says "it is essential that a comprehensive wastewater spills containment and management plan is prepared by gas companies for each well pad using a rigorous set of world leading practice guidelines, with these waste management plans approved and enforced by the regulator.
"In New Zealand, three levels of containment are required for all oil and gas sites to manage possible spills: the first is a containment of wastewater in tanks (and not ponds), the second consists of bunds around the site and the third consists of a stormwater pond to collect rainwater that falls on the site."
Protect Country Alliance spokesman Graeme Sawyer said the onshore gas fracking industry and the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources had drafted a plan to allow open air wastewater tanks and evaporation pits for fracking sludge waste.
"When Chief Minister Michael Gunner lifted the moratorium on fracking, he promised to implement all the Fracking Inquiry recommendations in full," he said.
"This underhanded response to Inquiry recommendation 7.12 is a broken promise, and creates a dangerous situation for waterways and wildlife.
"It was bad enough that the Gunner Government went against the will of the people and removed the moratorium, but for it to go further and deliberately ignore recommendations designed to mitigate the risk of fracking is monstrous."
Comments on the draft Code of Practice, closed yesterday, but the code is available here:
A spokesman for Primary Industry Minister Paul Kirby said the Government has worked with independent scientific experts, including the CSIRO, to develop the draft code.
The spokesman said the Government will review all feedback and finalise the Code of Practice which will be legally enforceable on all gas companies operating in the NT.
"In relation to that recommendation, the outcome intended by the Inquirys recommendation (7.12) was that the use of closed tanks was to prevent the risk of tanks overflowing caused by rainwater inundation. This outcome has been maintained in the draft Code of Practice.
"In the Wet Season theres an elevated risk that high-intensity rainfall will cause the tanks to overflow, therefore the Code of Practice requires companies to provide for enclosed tanks in these times.
"The potential allowance for open tanks in the Dry Season would let evaporation reduce the amount of wastewater that requires transport to appropriately licensed disposal facilities. This means a decrease in trucking traffic volume and its associated safety risks, as well as a reduction in dust and greenhouse gas emissions. There are currently no wastewater treatment facilities in the NT in close proximity to the field and previous experience required treatment to be undertaken in Queensland."
The spokesman said the Code did not include "substantial deviations" from the scientific inquiry.
"The NT Government has accepted all 135 Recommendations made by the Scientific Inquiry and is committed to implementing them in a staged approach.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday at 6am from the Katherine Times. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.