The NT Government has admitted changing key rules for the fledgling Territory shale gas industry.
NT Parliament was yesterday told a key recommendation of the Pepper inquiry had been altered after discussions with the gas industry.
In relation to the development of rules for the start of the on-shore gas industry, Primary Industry and Resources Minister Paul Kirby yesterday told Parliament the "the scientific approach is not the only approach. We also take our lead from industry as well".
In lifting the moratorium on the industry in April last year, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said: ""I want to assure all Territorians that we will faithfully implement all the recommendations of the report ..."
The report is the 135 recommendations which came from the long Pepper inquiry which the government said provided the blueprint for the industry to safely develop.
Two of those recommendations, the containment of toxic wastewater from the fracking process in sealed tanks, has been substantially changed in the proposed code of practice still being developed to govern development of the industry.
In that proposed code, the inquiry recommendations for sealed tanks have been changed.
Despite the proposed code have just closed for public comments, several gas companies have already released their Environmental Management Plans for approval so they can begin drilling.
The issue came under questioning in Parliament yesterday.
The Pepper inquiry recommendations came from fears about toxic spills, and also to prevent local wildlife such as threatened birdlife from drinking the water.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said it was not her job to "talk to you (Opposition) about how to shoo away birds from dams".
The government said industry wanted open tanks in the dry season to allow evaporation to concentrate the wastewater so there was less quantity to transport inter-state for destruction.
Mr Gunner said last year the independent scientific report into hydraulic fracturing "found that risks could be mitigated if all the recommendations of their report were implemented".
Mr Kirby agreed the scientific inquiry into hydraulic fracturing recommended having contained tanks for the water at all times.
"One of the suggestions, though, that has been talked about-and it was mentioned yesterday - was that during the dry season having open tanks or that opportunity to evaporate some of the waste water would be beneficial because it would then possibly cut down the number of trucks that have to take the waste water to be treated.
"If you are taking the wastewater off-site to be treated, if you can evaporate some of that off, that would assist in cutting the number of trucks.
"It is in the code of practice where we specifically talk about that but during the wet season, it would have to be closed tanks to stop rainwater inundation ... "
Ms Lawler also told Parliament the details on wastewater storage was contained in the environmental management plans
"They are the details that they will need to work through. We care for our flora and fauna in the Northern Territory but details on those levels-truly, I will not stand up here and talk to you about how to shoo away birds from dams."
Mr Kirby also said in drawing up its proposed code it had "listened to people that are experts in the field".
"With the codes of practice, there has been 31 recommendations required to allow exploration and drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have now been completed or will soon be completed, particularly once the codes of practice are finalised.
"We understand that there has been recommendations on tanks for wastewater storage. There is also some strong information coming from industry on the amount of evaporation that happens on these sites and that may be the best way to get rid of large amounts of wastewater. It is something we are working our way through.
"We take great pride that we take the time we need to get this right. It is an industry that will be here for a long time and they take pride in their professionalism and we continue to work closely with them."
He also said the government had received advice from the CSIRO on the development of its code on that and they were relating to surface activities, well operations, wastewater management and methane operations.
"There has been a lot of feedback. There will be improved scrutiny on EMPs and SRIBAs as well which will continue to make sure there is the right amount of scrutiny."
Ms Lawler also said: "We have put in place the legislation and those amendments to make sure that those environmental plans are there. It will then be up to those proponents to work through those environmental plans to show how they will make sure that the flora and fauna will not be impacted on those sites. That is the layer of detail."
Protect Country Alliance spokesman Graeme Sawyer said it was "an appalling move" by the government.
"It shows the NT Government and the fracking industry have no respect for our unique biodiversity.
"It is yet another major move away from the 135 recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry.
The NT public cannot have any faith in a government that contradicts itself - the hypocrisy from this government beggars belief, and will likely have implications for Federal Labor this Saturday."
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