Fracking is expected to begin in the Beetaloo Basin within weeks.
Mining companies Santos and Origin Energy were on Wednesday given the all clear to resume their exploration for onshore natural gas.
The NT Government gave the all clear for the resumption of shale gas exploration.
It announced it had finalised its Code of Practice "further strengthening protections for the environment and delivering an accountable and transparent onshore gas industry".
The government said it was implementing all 135 recommendations from the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing.
The establishment of the code means the majority of the recommendations required for exploration to commence this year have been implemented.
After the draft code was criticised over the issue of wastewater, the code has now been revised to make it clear that enclosed tanks are required to be used to store wastewater.
"The code has also been made clearer regarding wastewater treatment, evaporation, transport and disposal requirements."
The code mandates enforceable standards and requirements for the onshore gas industry on key issues, including:
- Well operations
- Surface activities
- Wastewater management; and
- Methane emissions.
Development of the Territory's onshore petroleum industry has the potential to generate significant investment in the local economy and create local jobs, the government again said.
Following the approval of environment management plans, civil works are commencing in the Beetaloo basin, in accordance with the Code of Practice.
Copies of approved environment management plans will be available to be viewed here: https://denr.nt.gov.au/environment-information/onshore-gas-in-the-northern-territory/environment-management-plan
Primary Industry and Resources Minister Paul Kirby said: "With this new Code of Practice, our Government is delivering strong and clear regulation to protect the environment, give certainty for investment, and meet community demands.
"Our Government has a clear plan to protect our environment, create local jobs and ensure the actions of Government and industry are transparent and accountable.
"We expect to see exploration this dry season - so long as the companies have met all the requirements that they need to meet."
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said: "The Territory's natural environment is one of our best assets and a huge part of what makes living here so special. Protecting the environment creates jobs - good environmental policy, is smart economic policy.
"We are restoring trust and certainty through the implementation of a robust, clear and transparent set of rules and guidelines for how the environment must be protected."
"These reforms will strengthen governance and accountability for environmental decisions, providing greater certainty for business and the community."
Gas industry spokesman, APPEA external affairs director Matt Doman, welcomed the finalisation today of the code.
"The code is a critical component of implementing the recommendations of theScientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, and itaddresses the recommendations of the inquiry which were required for exploration to recommence.
"The Codes were developed by a technical working group including the Government's regulatory inspectors and engineers working closely with CSIRO scientific staff. The codes now represent some of the most comprehensive and rigorous regulations in the world. They set enforceable standards for a range of activities including well operations, surface activities, and water management.
"The priority now is to move forward with gas exploration that will benefit the Territory and provide jobs and investment.
"Further exploration and potential development of the NT's onshore oil and gas resources, including those contained in shale and tight formations, will improve the NT's long-term energy security, provide a reliable gas feedstock for new industrial development.
"After almost three years of activity lost to the moratorium and its resolution, the industry hopes to start exploration as soon as possible."
The Arid Lands Environment Centre says it is concerned by comments in recent days by Minister Lawler that fracking 'commercial production will resume soon', despite the Government's own timeline stating the production of fracked gas will not occur until 2021.
Works are expected to start at sites in 'coming days, if not weeks'.
This is despite the fact that there are still recommendations that have not been implemented, no go zones have not been finalised, the monitoring and compliance strategy has not been released, and there is no information on how the NT Government is going to offset the pollution that will be produced from the exploration.
The public were adamant that guidelines need to be revised to protect the environment but this call has effectively been ignored by government.
ALEC has concerns that the NT Government is approving Environmental Management Plans that are not consistent with recommendations from the Fracking Inquiry. The public needs certainty on when exploration will be permitted to commence.
"Based on Government statements yesterday, community members are confused on where the process is up to," said Jimmy Cocking, CEO Arid Lands Environment Centre.
"Is commercial production going to start soon, or is it in 2021? The 135 recommendations are far from being completed, and a number of recommendations need to be completed before exploration can occur, including consideration of submissions in relation to the No Go Zones."
"We are concerned that there is land clearing and a range of works that is commencing, before the necessary regulations and laws and are finalized."
"The NT Government does not have a climate strategy and there is no information on how the emissions are to be offset from exploration and production."
"Most concerning is that the revised code of practice still allows waste water to be stored in 'open tanks' exposing local ecosystems to serious risks of contamination."
"No further EMPs should be approved until it is clear that all recommendations are in place as required by the inquiry and there are strong laws to protect the environment."
"Minister Lawler and Minister Kirby must clarify where the process is up to and where the line between exploratory fracking ends and commercial production begins."
"The recommendations were clear that flowback water used in fracking must be stored in enclosed tanks. The new Codes of Practice exempts water being treated for reuse or disposal. It is possible now that no water could be stored in enclosed tanks. This exemption muddies the water and is the first broken promise in the implementation of the fracking inquiry recommendations."
ALEC is seeking clarity from Ministers and the Departments on these issues.
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