Last week’s Fonterra tanker contamination scare (Taranaki Daily News, Nov 1st) is yet another alarming wake-up call, if more were needed. “It is mind-boggling that a drilling waste truck could possibly be confused with a milk tanker. But with oil and gas drilling and waste disposal operations sprawling rapidly across our farming landscape, it is perhaps of little surprise that such a disturbing incident could occur. The message is loud and clear – the petroleum industry and dairy farming cannot co-exist without jeopardising farming communities. Petroleum waste and milk simply do not mix,” said Catherine Cheung, researcher of Climate Justice Taranaki (CJT).
Despite the government and industry’s repeated assurances, it is increasingly obvious that regulations on oil and gas operations here are not as robust as claimed. Although Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) regularly refer to Canadian guidelines, TRC consents for drilling waste discharge on land do not follow those guidelines closely, and are far weaker in their ability to protect farming and natural environments.
In comparison, TRC consents allow much higher levels of hydrocarbon discharge on landfarms, a far longer consent duration (14 years rather than 5), fracking waste discharge on landfarms, no toxicity testing, inadequate sampling, and discharge of wastes at much closer proximity to water bodies.
Importantly, TRC consents do not specify any stock withdrawal period on landfarms. Cattle grazing has been reported here in areas where drilling wastes had recently been spread. In Alberta, before disposal sites can be returned to agriculture, the soil must meet specified levels of contaminants and operators must obtain approvals from the government.
Such discrepancies between TRC consent conditions for landfarms and the Canadian guidelines are presented thoroughly in CJT’s latest submission to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
“We think that the TRC regulatory system on drilling waste disposal on landfarms is not up to scratch. With the Commissioner’s report due to be released soon, we reaffirm our call for an immediate ban on fracking. We also want a stop on all oil and gas operations on farms. The two are simply incompatible. Farming is the lifeblood of our communities.” concluded Cheung.