Inquiry will clear the air on fracking – editorial

The editorial in today’s (Tuesday 3rd April) New Zealand Herald welcomes the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s announcement of an official inquiry into  fracking.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Editorial: Probe should yield clarity on fracking

The inquiry into fracking being undertaken by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is extremely welcome. The technique, under which high-pressure blasts of water, sand and chemicals are used to fracture rock to release gas and oil, has generated a lot of emotion but far too little light. On one side, the Greens have called for a moratorium on fracking despite the lack of conclusive evidence about its ill-effects. On the other, there has been the usual accusation that those opposed to such new practices are Luddites, and the Energy and Resources Minister’s unhelpful statement that “the Greens want a moratorium on everything”. Both sides of the argument stand to gain much from a science-based investigation.

Opponents of fracking claim it can contaminate groundwater, release harmful gases into the atmosphere, and trigger earthquakes. Yet the technique has been used in Taranaki for the past 20 years, with 41 exploration wells employing it over the past decade. A report last year by the Taranaki District Council concluded it was unlikely that contaminants from the practice would reach overlying freshwater aquifers in the region, but that this was “not impossible”.

Such inconclusive findings increase the significance of the inquiry by the parliamentary commissioner, Jan Wright. It is important that she has seized the initiative because the prospect that exploration companies will also use fracking on the East Coast and in Canterbury has heightened community concerns. Marise Lant, a spokeswoman for East Coast iwi Ngariki Kaiputahi, summed up the predicament when she noted that “at this point there’s a lot of information we could be getting”.

Continue reading…