In the last week news from the Climate Council and the Environmental Defenders Office has underlined the dire situation regarding gas exploration in the Northern Territory, and the coalition government’s plans to fund it.
The Climate Council’s recently released report The NSW Future of Gas Statement shows almost the entire Northern Territory covered by either exploration permits, which give gas companies a fixed period of time to search for gas and drill exploratory wells, or by application permits, where gas companies have asked government for the right to explore for gas.
Climate Council energy expert Dr Madeline Taylor says that demand for gas has slumped and that gas can only maintain its commercial viability with government interference, and Climate Council spokesman and former BP Australia president, Greg Bourne, says. ‘Every taxpayer dollar spent on new gas-fired power infrastructure is at risk of being wasted on unnecessary stranded assets’.
Earlier this month a federal government decision was announced to grant up to $21 million to a gas company under a program set up to provide funding for gas exploration activities in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo sub-basin.
Last week Traditional Owners from across the Territory appeared before a Senate inquiry investigating the federal government’s grant. Joni Wilson, Yanyuwa and Garrwa Traditional Owner said, ‘We have not been given any information about fracking, we have not given anyone permission. No-one has asked us. So no, we haven’t given permission’.
The Environment Defenders Office has filed urgent proceedings challenging the lawfulness of the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program and the decision of the Minister to grant these funds. They will argue that the Minister didn’t make reasonable inquiries about climate change risks, transition risks to a zero carbon economy, and risks associated with failing to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. A successful outcome of this case could set a powerful precedent.