“There is inadequate scientific evidence and technical capacity to ensure safety at all stages of oil and gas production involving fracking. The associated risks—elevated seismic hazards, water contamination, soil degradation, air pollution, contamination of food chain and health impacts on nearby residents—are far too great to justify further expansion,” wrote Climate Justice Taranaki (CJT) in their latest submission to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
Seismic hazards are of particular concern, given NZ’s geology. Two new studies, both published in the prestigious Science Magazine last month, pointed out that while fracking is known to trigger micro-earthquakes, deep well injection can trigger large, damaging quakes. The studies linked the recent dramatic increase in seismicity in Midwestern US to increases in deep well injection, and warned that areas with suspected human-induced earthquakes are also more susceptible to large quakes, triggered by seismic waves of large, remote quakes.
In terms of well integrity, the industry has admitted that 5% of all new oil and gas wells leak, and in 20 years, over 50% of them will fail. In 2009, two producing wells at Cheal-A wellsite were reported to have been leaking since 2007, due to casing issues. In the US, there was one well integrity violation for every six DWI wells examined from 2007 to 2010.
CJT also highlighted significant flaws in NZ’s regulatory regime which “…cannot guarantee industry best practice, robust and objective monitoring, transparent compliance checks or effective response and remediation should incidents occur.”
In the 21 page submission, CJT cited numerous consent breaches and repeated non-compliances by oil and gas companies. One recent case involved BTW’s Brown Road landfarm which was issued two abatement notices in June, for discharging beyond the site boundary onto the beach, resulting in elevated levels of benzene in soil samples. Another involved Tag Oil which came under the spot light last year for illegally flaring at Cheal-A for ten months. Earlier this year, Tag Oil was issued two abatement notices for incomplete injection records and illegally injecting drilling wastes at Cheal-A for over a year.
CJT urges the Commissioner to consider an outright ban on fracking. And if a ban is not possible, a moratorium until six conditions can be achieved:
i. Identify high seismic hazard areas where fracking and deep well injection of drilling and fracking waste must be banned,
ii. Implement a seismic risk management system to minimise risks from injection-induced earthquakes,
iii. Ban disposal of drilling and fracking wastes on farms,
iv. Require obligatory accounting and minimisation of fugitive methane,
v. Strengthen (not ‘streamline’) the current regulatory regime, to ensure safety, environmental protection, rights of landowners and potential affected parties, and adequate resources for disaster management, remediation and compensation, and
vi. Strengthen the current monitoring regime at the regional level, to ensure adequate science, independency of data, transparent reporting and objective assessment.
“We don’t want more fracking. What we really need now is an effective energy transition strategy to get us onto a truly clean, low carbon economy. It will be an investment for our future, for our children’s future!” said Catherine Cheung, researcher of CJT.
The full submission is available at:
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org