The NT Government has granted permission for a fracking company to begin operations on a cattle station in the McCarthur Basin despite the station owners saying the company has not fulfilled their legal obligations to consult them.
An Environmental Management Plan (EMP) submitted by Santos to frack on Tanumbirini Station, around 350km southwest of Katherine, was approved by NT Environment Minister Eva Lawler on October 6.
However, in a public submission, the lawyer for the station's pastoral leaseholder Rallen Australia, Marylou Potts, said Santos did not satisfy their obligation to "carry out stakeholder engagement" with Rallen before submitting their (EMP), as per NT regulations.
"Rallen is a stakeholder. Santos did not advise Rallen when it would lodge its Fracking EMP and Rallen has not, until now, had the opportunity to make comment on the Fracking EMP," Ms Potts wrote in her submission dated July 6, 2021.
"We submit, compliance with regulation 7 is an essential preliminary condition to the Minister's consideration of whether the EMP should be approved.
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"Santos submitted its draft EMO without Rallen's feedback."
Rallen claimed, via Ms Potts' submission, that the alleged failure to meet this regulation "may void any determination of the Fracking EMP."
Rallen also claimed that Santos has been in breach of its existing land access agreement on the property for "several months."
"Those breaches include breaches of the law including more than the maximum number of vehicles entering the property, failure to rehabilitate, trespass, breach of the Petroleum Regulations for failure to provide preliminary activity notice..." Ms Potts' submission reads.
"Rallen has not had the opportunity to submit feedback on the [EMP] as it is currently in dispute with Santos in relation to Santos' breaches of the access agreement."
However, the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA), recommended Minister Lawler approve the EMP, saying Santos did fulfill its stakeholder engagement obligations.
"As required by the regulations, the interest holder has demonstrated ongoing stakeholder engagement in the revised EMP with identified, directly-affected stakeholders. The revised EMP was also made available for public comments (9 June 2021 to 7 July 2021)," the NTEPA stated in its submission.
The NTEPA also said the EMP sufficiently adressed any environmental risks.
"The revised EMP adequately assesses the environmental impacts and risks associated with the regulated activity and outlines appropriate avoidance and mitigation measures," the submission reads.
"The interest holder's investigations into the physical, biological and cultural environment provide a satisfactory scientific basis to assess potential environmental impacts and risks, and to identify measures to avoid or minimise those impacts and risks and address scientific uncertainty."
Rallen is also in the midst of a dispute with another gas company, Sweetpea Petroleum, over a separate land access agreement.
A hearing in the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal into that matter is set to take place next month.
Santos has been contacted for comment.
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