The NT Government has been accused of overlooking key advice for the fledgling Territory shale gas industry in order to speed its development.
Anti-fracking groups claim the government's proposed set of instructions for gas companies, its draft Code of Practice for Onshore Petroleum Activities, does not follow the Pepper recommendations as promised.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner last year controversially 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".
Groups like Lock the Gate Alliance and Protect Country Alliance have seized on one small part of the code of practice to demonstrate what it claims is a "watering down" of the Pepper recommendations.
The Pepper inquiry has two recommendations in its final report that energy companies must use enclosed tanks for their wastewater on site.
This was to prevent toxic spills, particularly after heavy rain, and so local wildlife like the threatened Gouldian Finch could not drink from the tanks.
There is still nowhere in the NT to dispose of the wastewater which must be transported to Queensland for destruction.
NT Government authorities want miners to able to use evaporation to reduce the amount of wastewater to be transported.
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.
A government spokesman said the proposed Code did not include "substantial deviations" from the scientific inquiry.
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 Inquiry's 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 there's 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 NT Government has accepted all 135 recommendations made by the Scientific Inquiry and is committed to implementing them in a staged approach."
In a second response following further questions from the Katherine Times, the government said the Code of Practice stated: "Control measures shall be implemented to prevent the interactions of wildlife, stock, and human receptors with produced water and flowback fluid storage facilities."
"These measures will be the responsibility of the operator to implement and will be detailed in their draft Environment Management Plan, which is assessed and considered under the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations 2016 by the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. Such measures could include actions such as fencing, retractable covers and fauna-proof containment structures and daily monitoring of facilities during the drilling program.
"As the relevant EMPs progress through the assessment process, the NT Government will ensure that these commitments are appropriately reflected, and if not additional requirements may be imposed either in the EMP or as conditions of approval."
A spokeswoman for Lock the Gate said the risk of overtopping tanks in rain was not the only reason for the tanks to be enclosed.
The Pepper inquiry also recommended enclosed tanks on-site to hold wastewater in preference to open ponds "which would prevent access by wildlife".
Origin has released its Environment Management Plan for public comment which paves the way for the start of exploratory drilling and fracking at its Kyalla site, again near Daly Waters.
Origin says: "All flowback fluids will be stored in above-ground tanks and managed in accordance with the NT Petroleum Code of Practice.
"This includes the use of both open and covered double-lined tanks. During the dry season, the use of open-top tanks will be used to maximise evaporation.
"If flowback operations extend into the wet season, a hybrid combination of enclosed / covered tanks and open-top working tanks will be implemented. Flowback fluids will be stored in open-top tanks as much as possible, to maximise evaporation. Where a significant rainfall event is predicted, the total volume of flowback stored on-site will be transferred to the covered storage tanks within 72 hours and prior to the onset of the event."
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