KIMBERLEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA — (August 06, 2020)
The first company to submit a fracking proposal since the WA Government announced an overhaul of regulations says delays to their proposal are a “moratorium by stealth”.
Bennett Resources, a subsidiary of Texas-based Black Mountains, said last month that it had submitted the first fracking proposal to WA’s Environmental Protection Authority since the Government announced it was lifting its moratorium on fracking in November 2018.
But last week the West Australian Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson, said that while Bennett Resources were welcome to submit a proposal the regulations were still not in place to provide approvals.
The Minister said the project would be assessed along the same criteria and timeframe as any other submitted to the state’s environmental watchdog.
“I understand with [Bennett Resource’s] project, it’s been referred to the EPA and … I’ve got a future role as a decision maker so I won’t talk about that project,” Mr Dawson said.
“But certainly no project is going to get off the ground before the code of practice has been agreed on. That work still continues. I imagine it’ll take some months yet.”
“But what [the Minister’s] comments imply is that the Government of Western Australia is enforcing a fracking moratorium by stealth.”
No fracking legislation before election
In June this year Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the plan to implement the new regulations had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic with a draft “expected in the third quarter of this year”.
At the time Mr Johnston was uncertain if the proposed code of practice would require legislative changes, but confirmed the requirement for fracking companies to obtain the consent of landowners, including Indigenous native title holders, would require legislation.
The ABC asked the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) when the draft code of practice would be ready, whether it would require legislative changes, and when the code of practice would be finalised.
DMIRS responded with a statement that did not answer any of these questions, saying in part: “Work on the Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation Implementation Plan is ongoing, and no approvals for hydraulic fracturing will be granted until mechanisms are in place to ensure the Government’s policy objectives are met.”
With the legislative agenda already full ahead of the March 2021 election, the Government has previously confirmed any legislative changes cannot pass through the WA Parliament before the election.
“This blockade for approvals of course hurts Black Mountain,” Ms Zumwalt-Forbes said.
“But it devastates the local Noonkanbah community that genuinely wants to develop the resources on their native land.”
In a statement to the ABC, chairwoman for the community’s Yungngora Association Jayna Skinner said the community was concerned about delays in assessing fracking on their country.
“The Community understands the need for strong environmental protection but wants to see economic development opportunities and employment for its people,” Ms Skinner said.
“So the Community would like the Government to hurry up its review of the regulations.”
Black Mountain Media