MEDIA RELEASE: Was or is Taranaki fracking illegal?

A recent Official Information Act request by local group Climate Justice Taranaki (CJT) reveals that fracking and drilling now suddenly need a consent from the Taranaki Regional Council under the Resource Management Act (RMA). The climate group is investigating whether all the fracking and drilling of recent years therefore took place illegally.

“We have obtained a letter from the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) to the oil and gas companies which says that after seeking legal advice a resource consent is now required under several sections of the Resource Management Act that deals with discharge of contaminants” says CJT member Emily Bailey.

The Chief Executive of TRC says they received a legal opinion by law firm Simpson Grierson after “some members of society … expressed concern about fraccing”. The legal opinion however is being withheld because it is deemed it will breach ‘legal professional privilege’ under Section 7(2)g of the Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act 1987.

The letter to the companies, dated 29 July 2011, states that “from the date of this letter, resource consent will be required for fraccing in Taranaki under Rule 44 [of the Fresh Water Plan].”

“We’re glad the Regional Council made fracking and all drilling an activity that requires a resource consent however TRC says these consents are ‘likely to be processed as non-notified’ which locks the community out of important discussions concerning our community’s well-being. The recent rushed policy change puts into question TRC’s upholding of its obligations under the RMA. The Council’s new contemplation that fracking could become a permitted activity under the revised Fresh Water Plan because they assume it has ‘no more than minor adverse effects and lack of affected parties’, is completely contrary to growing evidence from similar practices overseas.”

“Given that the Fresh Water Plan has been in place for 10 years and the RMA came into effect in 1991, we now have serious concerns that fracking has been taking place in the Taranaki region illegally and that it is about to be swept under the carpet again under new and inadequate policy.

The RMA states clearly that discharge of contaminants from industrial premises into land requires a resource consent to minimise adverse effects. Companies like TAG Oil and Todd Energy have in recent years pumped countless litres of highly toxic chemicals into the earth to access ‘tight’ oil and gas. These fracking chemicals are then discharged into our environment along with other toxic drilling chemicals all companies use to drill their wells. It is not best practice.”

“Also in the letter is mention that some companies have so far refused to ‘voluntarily supply information on fraccing’ during Council’s attempt to compile an information sheet. While it does not state which companies weren’t co-operating, the Council has indicated that they will be ‘identified in any public communication on the matter’. It is frustrating that TRC assumed minor effects when they do not know all the chemicals being used.”

Climate Justice Taranaki will keep pushing for a ban on fracking.

Researcher Robyn Harris-Iles comments: “Fracking is by far the worst environmental disaster we are facing in this country because the process not only endangers our groundwater aquifers with toxic chemicals and radioactive particles; these poisonous toxins and heavy metals are spread on land and discharged into our streams, rivers and coastal waters. Pollution from fracking also affects the air we breathe, with dangerous gases being emitted throughout the process. We need to put an end to
fossil fuel extraction by developing clean alternative energy that protects us and our environment for future generations.”

ENDS

Contact: climatejusticetaranaki@riseup.net

NOTES

1. The letter from TRC to the companies is attached (download here).

2. Relevant Resource Management Act – Section 151(a, b and d):
Discharge of contaminants into environment
(1) No person may discharge any—
(a) contaminant or water into water; or
(b) contaminant onto or into land in circumstances which may result in that contaminant (or any other contaminant emanating as a result of natural processes from that contaminant) entering water; or
(c) contaminant from any industrial or trade premises into air; or
(d) contaminant from any industrial or trade premises onto or into land—unless the discharge is expressly allowed by a national environmental standard or other regulations, a rule in a regional plan as well as a rule in a proposed regional plan for the same region (if there is one), or a resource consent.

Rule 44 of the TRC Fresh Water Plan states the above.

Download Media Release as PDF.

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