Tamboran fracking approval challenged in NT Supreme Court

November 9, 2023
Activists and First Nations people oppose the NT's decision to support Tamboran fracking the Beetaloo Basin. Photo: Environment Centre Northern Territory/Facebook

The Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA) is suing the Northern Territory environment minister over the decision to allow Texan gas company Tamboran to drill and frack 12 exploratory wells in the NT.

CAFFA is arguing the minister’s approval was invalid because she failed to consider the environmental impacts of future gas projects.

A large community anti-fracking gathering was organised outside the NT Supreme Court began hearings on November 7.

CAFFA members Heather McIntyre and Do Newman told their story of CAFFA’s decade-long campaign against fracking, and thanked the crowd for their solidarity.

Community opposition to fracking is high. Previous polls indicate 86% of Territorians do not want fracking to go ahead.

Fracking poses risks for groundwater contamination, as well as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency said in 2021 that if the world is to reach net zero by 2050 there can be no new gasfields.

Tamboran is now the biggest player in the plan to frack the Beetaloo Basin, having bought out Origin Energy’s stake.

The company proposes to drill 12 pilot production wells on Amungee Mungee cattle station, south east of Daly Waters.

The gas fracked from the Beetaloo Basin will be processed at the NT government’s proposed industrial precinct at Middle Arm.

The Middle Arm Industrial Precinct is the subject of a Senate inquiry, which is expected to hold hearings in Darwin and Palmeston in coming months.

Climate justice activists with the No New Gas Coalition have vowed to stop fracking from going ahead. They say the government cannot be trusted.

Earlier this year, the NT government lied about having implemented all of the Pepper Inquiry’s recommendations. One crucial recommendation — 9.8 — said there should be no net increase in the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from any onshore shale gas projects.

A new report has found that the NT government has significantly underestimated emissions that will be released from fracking the Beetaloo Basin.

Earlier this year, Tamboran imported its megafracker into Darwin, from the US, in preparation for its deigns on the Beelatoo Basin.

When the megafracker arrived in Darwin in May, one activist locked on to it for hours before being cut loose and arrested.

Activists slowed down the megafracker’s transportation through Katherine in July using using bikes, prams and shopping trolleys to obstruct the road and raising a “No New Gas” banner.

The 12 wells are just the beginning. At full production, the NT and federal government envisage 200–300 wells drilled each year over a period of 20–40 years.

Tamboran has already been implicated in chemical spills before production has even started. If full-scale production goes ahead, the implications for the groundwater, the climate and Territory livelihoods could be disastrous.

[Stay up to date with CAFFA here and the No New Gas Coalition here.]

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