The Northern Territory Government is under pressure from the Federal Government to "cut corners" and approve fracking projects in the Beetaloo Basin, a Senate Inquiry heard.
The first hearing of the Senate Inquiry into fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, took place yesterday with a number of Northern Territory stakeholders making submissions.
NT Environment Centre Co-Director Kirsty Howey told the inquiry the NT Government, because of its vulnerable economic position, is under pressure from the Federal Government to approve projects from oila nd gas companies.
"The Northern Territory Government is in an extremely challenging position fiscally and is more dependent on other jurisdictions on federal funding," she said.
"This creates a significant power imbalance between the Federal and NT Governments. It is within this context that the Federal Government's funding injections to industry and the Northern Territory Government must be examined."
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"We believe that Federal funding of the gas industry (including through the Instrument the subject of this Inquiry) and the Northern Territory Government, may increase the risk that the Pepper Inquiry recommendations will not be implemented as these arrangements are explicitly intended to accelerate the onshore gas industry's move to production."
The independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory, also known as the Pepper Inquiry, was handed down in 2018.
Protect Country Alliance spokesman Graeme Sawyer agreed that Federal Government grants, such as the recently announced $21 million grant to Empire Energy as a part of its $50m Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, put pressure on the NT Government to push through the projects.
"The federal government subsidies are speeding up a process that should be science based and taking an appropriate amount of time," he told the inquiry.
"The NT government is not able to manage the process nor the pressure from the Federal Government. There is a catastrophe looming here and corners are being cut."
In their submission to the Inquiry, Empire Engery outlined the economic importance of their projects to the local community.
"Empire Energy would like to take this opportunity to outline the importance of gas resource development to the Northern Territory, particularly the regional communities which host that development and the traditional owners on whose land the activity will take place," the submission read.
"This submission outlines Empire Energy's interests in the Beetaloo Basin and highlights that the company has at all times met or exceeded regulatory requirements in relation to obtaining the full and informed consent of traditional owners, and demonstrates that the operations can be carried out safely and with minimal environment impact."
Environment Minister Eva Lawler said the NT Government was "doing the heavy lifting" to keep the gas industry accountable.
"We have been clear with the Australian Government, the gas industry and the community that we are delivering a highly regulated industry with the best protections in place and will implement all 135 recommendations of the independent fracking inquiry," she said.
"We created no go zones to keep almost half of the Territory free from hydraulic fracturing activities, including in National Parks, Conservation Areas, Indigenous Protected Areas, towns, residential and strategic assets, and areas of high cultural, environmental or tourism value.
"We have implemented strict laws and regulations to ensure we protect the environment, the cultures and lifestyles that rely on it, and the many tourism, pastoral and agricultural jobs that depend on it."
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