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Forest & Bird backs PCE’s caution on fracking

November 27 2012

Forest & Bird backs PCE’s caution on fracking

Forest & Bird is urging the authorities to adopt a precautionary approach to fracking because much more needs to be known about its environmental impacts and how New Zealand should regulate the practice before approval for more fracking operations can be considered.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE)’s interim report on fracking has been released today.

Forest & Bird’s concerns around fracking relate particularly to water use, water quality and the disposal of toxic frack waste.

In her report, PCE Jan Wright identifies four parts of the process that, if managed poorly, could lead to contaminants leaking into groundwater. She notes that: “The potential for important aquifers to be contaminated as a result of fracking is very real” - by chemicals or salty water.

She also describes a lax regulatory environment and a lack of clarity around operational practice, and she will issue a further and final report on these issues in 2013.

“Our final views will be guided and heavily informed by the PCE’s further work,” says Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Claire Browning. “We have real reservations about fracking, and do not support it at this time although we’re open to taking the best independent advice on the issue.

“The other major problem with fracking is that it’s all about sustaining the big oil and gas companies - which is good for that industry - but if it’s allowed to take hold here, it will have very mixed clean energy benefits.”

In embracing fracking, New Zealand would also be at odds with a number of other countries or states which have banned it, or issued moratoriums, Claire Browning says.

The PCE’s report concludes that a moratorium on fracking in NZ is not justified at this time.

“Instead, Dr Wright appears to be leaning towards managing the regulatory framework,” Claire Browning says. “But any new regulation still needs to be governed by a precautionary approach.”

If the PCE’s second report was to recommend that fracking can be managed, the question would still remain about whether this is, overall, the best energy direction for New Zealand, Claire Browning concludes.


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