Fracking inquiry

March 29th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Both sides of the debate are welcoming news of an official and independent investigation.

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, announced the investigation yesterday.

Preliminary work on hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping water and chemicals into wells to release oil and gas, had indicated there was a need for an examination, she said.

“Over the next few months my staff and I will conduct this investigation and produce a report to Parliament,” she said.

The report would be presented before the end of the year, she said.

But while the move is what Taranaki’s strongest opponents of hydraulic fracturing have long called for, they say a moratorium is still needed in this region while the investigation is under way.

The inquiry is not a bad thing. The tends to generally take a robust science based approach to issues.

The sad reality is though that opponents of fracking will remain implacably opposed to it regardless of what the PCE says. Their call for a moratorium is in fact a call for a permanent ban. I bet you there will never ever be a day when they say the moratorium should be lifted.

I also predict that the PCE will probably say there is no proof that fracking causes harm, but they can not prove it doesn’t do bad stuff, and opponents will seize on the inability to prove a negative as a reason for it to be banned.

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35 Responses to “Fracking inquiry”

  1. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    A new film, Fracknation, is coming out putting the positive case for fracking….it blows away the Green lies and distortions we hear about it…

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1009530098/fracknation

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  2. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    More from the article:

    Teresa Goodin, of Climate Justice Taranaki, said independent research was needed, not what the petroleum industry and their contractors provided.

    “While TRC now require consents for drilling and the commissioner’s inquiry has the go-ahead, we still need to stop the fracking going on right now.

    “The TRC needs to admit that reports based on the petroleum companies’ own data are simply not good enough.

    “Fracking has already caused too much damage in Taranaki – it’s time to stop.”

    You know that this has fuck all to do with fraccing, when the leading protagonists are from a group called “Climate Justice…..”

    And what is this “too much damage” that has already been caused? Please do enlighten me Ms Goodin. It’s a pity we’re served by such lily-livered morons in the media here in NZ. If we had media that were capable of critical thinking, they might do well to ask these eco-nazis the same question.

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  3. flipper (4,332 comments) says:

    Yep…
    It is all about the “canna” attitude of the red melkons and tgheir surrogates inb the media

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  4. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Fracking in Canterbury? The city council asked the govt to put a moratorium on this , the govt declined.

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  5. mikenmild (12,402 comments) says:

    This is a good move. An inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner should have credibility. There do seem to be some genuine concerns about use of this technology, but those concerns can get lost in a polarized debate.

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  6. Peter (1,695 comments) says:

    One of our local MPs, who proved to be vastly unpopular compared to Peter Dunne in the last election, has been banging on about fracking as if the end is nigh.

    It would be great if some facts were introduced to counter his shameless – putting it politely – “spin”.

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  7. krazykiwi (8,040 comments) says:

    The Greens have Gaia’s back here. Harnessing energy makes her angry.

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  8. Rural Connect (10 comments) says:

    Let’s not write fracking off for sure.

    But, and more importantly, lets take a cautious approach to the issues and put a moratorium on fracking until we know more about the impacts and benefits of the practice. It is not worth the risk of letting those with a financial interest in the process charge ahead unfettered and unaccountable. Putting a moratorium in place means that the gas remains in the ground, appreciating in value without jeopardising the health of current or future generations.

    Because of the emotive ‘facts’ already in the media (like water from the kitchen tap being set on fire), there are many other issues with fracking that are not being widely canvassed. I do not know the answers to these issues and can only hope that these will be part of the inquiry.

    For example, what is the impact on water supplies of the huge amount of water required to make fracking work?

    Then there’s the chemicals in the re-extracted water – how will that be disposed of? Who will pay for that disposal?

    Then there is the impact of methane gas released to the atmosphere when the holes are drilled and for the life of the well – is there an ETS cost to this process?

    Then there is the net energy benefit from extracting natural gas – it appears to me that the investment in fracking would give a better financial return to the country if the funds were invested in renewables like wind turbines.

    And I have not even touched on environmental or community issues!

    It is clear that the large corporates running the fracking industry in the US have lobbied the US government to remove environmental protect requirements from the fracking process. Why would they do that? This is a sufficient reason to trust neither the fracking process nor the companies using it until the process can be clearly demonstrated as safe.

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  9. flipper (4,332 comments) says:

    JAN WRIGHT RE-VISTED:
    Notwithstanding DPF’s conciliatory comment on Wright, her history on AGW/CC and “robust science” is not a good look.
    Taken together with the RMA, and Conservation’s silly Al Morrison (and now Gareth M), is this where we are headed?

    *****
    Judge slams EPA for illegal power grab

    March 27, 2012
    by BONNER COHEN, PH. D.
    A federal judge March 23 ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its authority when it revoked a permit for Arch Coal Inc. to proceed with its controversial Spruce No. 1 mining operation in the Appalachian mountains.

    In 2007, Arch Coal obtained a “dredge and fill” permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowing it to move forward with the Spruce No. 1 mine in rural Logan County, West Virginia. But in January 2011, EPA revoked the permit, arguing that the project would do significant harm to streams and watershed areas near the mine. The Spruce Mine had been the subject of one of the most comprehensive environmental impact statements (EIS) ever undertaken for a coal mine in the U.S.

    At issue was whether EPA had the authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to revoke a valid existing permit issued by another federal agency when the terms of the permit had not been abridged. In the 12 previous cases where EPA had revoked permits, it did so arguing that the company was operating outside the confines of the permitted activity. That was not the case at the Spruce No. 1 mine.

    U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson struck down EPA’s ruling and said the permit issued by the Corps “remains valid and in full force.” “Based upon a consideration of the provision in question, the language and structure of the entire statutory scheme, and the legislative history, the court concludes that the statute does not give EPA the power to render a permit invalid once it has been issued by the Corps,” Judge Jackson wrote.

    “It’s bad enough that EPA’s crusade against Appalachian coal is harmful to coal communities and the economy of the region, but now we know it is also unlawful,” Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association (NMA), told the Wall Street Journal (March 24). Arch Coal said the project would create 250 jobs and represented a $250 million investment by the company.

    Judge Jackson’s ruling represents a setback for the Obama administration, which has argued that the Clean Water Act gives EPA wide latitude to veto permits issued by the Corps.

    “The current permitting process is already a protracted and complicated affair,” NMA CEO Hal Quinn said in a statement. “If we are to encourage investments, grow our economy and create jobs, companies need the certitude their success in obtaining permits will not be later robbed by the whims of EPA.”

    Judge Jackson’s ruling was the second Clean Water Act-related defeat EPA had suffered in 48 hours. On March 21st, the U.S. Supreme Court – in a unanimous 9-0 decision – ruled that EPA must allow an Idaho couple the right of judicial review to challenge the agency’s order to cease building a home on their property. EPA claimed that a bone-dry lot owned by Mike and Chantell Sackett was a wetland and ordered the couple to cease clearing their property and return the land to its original state or face up to $75,000 in fines per day. As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Sacketts will now get their day in court.

    While the two cases are different, they both revolve around the same principle. EPA is not above the law. “This is a huge victory for West Virginia and our coal miners,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) told the Washington Post (March 25). Tomblin urged EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson “to admit that they have gone too far.”

    “Issue our permits so that we can put our people back to work and provide the resources that will power America,” the governor added. In a statement, the West Virginia Coal Association was even blunter. It applauded the court “for taking EPA to task for overstepping its authority in order to wage a regulatory war on the West Virginia coal industry.”

    But perhaps no one was more scathing of EPA than Judge Jackson, who wrote in her decision: “This is a stunning power for any agency to arrogate to itself when there is absolutely no mention of it in the statute.”

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  10. mikenmild (12,402 comments) says:

    flipper said ‘her history on AGW/CC and “robust science” is not a good look.’ I’d like to see that substantiated – the PCE produces very robust reports.

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  11. PaulL (5,449 comments) says:

    Rural Connect: In a capitalist society, I don’t think we get to make decisions like “it appears to me that the investment in fracking would give a better financial return to the country if the funds were invested in renewables like wind turbines.” The financial return is to an individual company.

    The questions that are legitimate here are:
    – does it cause any environmental problems that are within the purview of govt (i.e. saying that natural gas is a greenhouse gas and therefore we shouldn’t do fracking doesn’t count)
    – are there material risks that are within the purview of govt

    There should not be a moratorium. To me this is the usual Green attempt to apply the “precautionary principle.” Which doesn’t, apparently, apply to my concerns about windmills, or about solar cells, neither of which have been proven to be safe. Nor does it apply to complementary medicines and a number of other areas of Green interest.

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  12. merlinnz (46 comments) says:

    “Fracking inquiry” – Oh, I thought this was a thread objecting to the ACC investigation. ;)

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  13. dime (10,215 comments) says:

    it wouldnt surprise me if it was banned here. why should we prosper from something? leave it to the yanks and aussies ffs

    the yanks oil production is through the roof. great timing too. well done to W.

    is there anything worse than a bearded, lisping green?

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  14. MT_Tinman (3,322 comments) says:

    I’ve noticed a few anti-fracking bumper stickers around lately, invariably on clapped out old dungers or bloody great big 4WDs (with the inevitable bike rack (soon to be replaced with ski-rack) attached).

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  15. merlinnz (46 comments) says:

    I agree with PaulL – NZers are just a peetree dish for ideas that might make money. Sometimes we make money from them, sometimes we dont, if we lose a few there’s always more people.

    NZ taxpayers are paying for all the health problems caused by DOW in Taranaki, not Dow. I’m not saying that fracking is anything like that BUT I am saying we so often in the past have given the green light to corporate profit ahead of health. Several times bitten rightly makes people wary.

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  16. merlinnz (46 comments) says:

    “is there anything worse than a bearded, lisping green?” Could you post your picture?

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  17. Paulus (2,711 comments) says:

    Who frakking well cares ?
    The Greenpeace Party have once again got their way – really they have done very well in this Parliament term – the media are obsessed with them, whereas Labour are ??? excluding the delusioned old man, Trevor.
    It is neither confirmed or denied in the beltway that this is his last term.
    Probably Robertson will see him as an unwanted turd at the next election.

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  18. flipper (4,332 comments) says:

    Miken..
    Wright has mouthed and continues to repeat, the canards promulgated by NIWA, the Min for Envir et al on AGW/CC.
    A level six child knows better!

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  19. Pete George (23,830 comments) says:

    Rural Connect

    But, and more importantly, lets take a cautious approach to the issues and put a moratorium on fracking until we know more about the impacts and benefits of the practice.

    You know that Taranaki has been fracking for 25 years?

    Should everyhting that’s been done for yonks be stopped until an inquiry has been held just in case?

    Trucking should be stopped until we’ve had an inquiry into whether trucking damages roads and pollutes the atmosphere. So should shipping and planing and training. Can’t take any chances.

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  20. dime (10,215 comments) says:

    merlin – hows that beard & lisp working out for you? hopefully you dont get bullied now youre an adult..

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  21. insider (845 comments) says:

    @ rural connect

    You need to separate out the issues that are general oil and gas production issues, and those specific to fraccing in and of its own right. Once you do that you’ll realise that most of ‘frac fear’ is just general distaste for oil and gas production by the usual anti capitalist green alliance and the easily startled housewifes who generally scared of the bogey man and like fashionable bumper stickers. There was one interviewed on RNZ this morning who wants a national moratorium because she you know, um feels kinda scared about it all…

    Taking your straw man questions:

    impact on water supplies is negligible in NZ. Large numbers of other industries use ‘huge amounts’ of water and we are not closing them down just in case.

    nasty chemicals are in all oil wells, the biggest chemicals being the toluenes, xylenes, napthas and benzenes that are being extracted. Fracking fluid is just not an issue in comparison. drilling mud is regularly ejected from all kinds of wells. Dealing with such things is well established and is funded by the driller as it has always been.

    Methane gas releases are nothing to do with fraccing, they are to do with oil and gas production. Maui has been flaring for nearly 40 years. Why are you worried about it all of a sudden?

    The net energy benefit is obviously positive otherwise people wouldn;t be doing it. If you don’t like the investmetn returns associated with fraccing, I have a used windmill I’m sure you’d love to invest in. But again why the sudden concern about the returns to oil companies? I;m sure they are touched by the love you are sharing but I think they’ll get along quite well without you.

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  22. Ross12 (1,486 comments) says:

    A general question. Who decides on what work the PCE does ? Is it just up to them ?

    I’m no expert on fracking but I’ve been doing some research on it for a related business matter lately. Like all things, as Pete George points out ,it has risks but I think think they appear to be grossly inflated. Apparently in Taranaki the worm farmers get some of the waste from the bottom of the settling ponds . In the USA some companies reuse the water from the settling ponds to minimise the water requirements ( they even truck it between different sites). The chemicals used seem to vary for different locations but most seem to try to contain the liquid when they bring it back out of the well when the gas source is found.
    So some education of the public. is needed

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  23. mikenmild (12,402 comments) says:

    Nice to know flipper knows better than Dr Wright and all those other pesky scientists.

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  24. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    DPF>The sad reality is though that opponents of fracking will remain implacably opposed to it regardless of what the PCE says.

    But if it is found to be safe, that opposition will lose much of its force.

    Given it has triggered earthquakes in the UK*, it would be wise not to expand it without a full understanding of the risks and how to avert them. Then you could have a site-by-site evaluation against those risks, before granting consent and no one will have VALID grounds for complaint.

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-03/gas-fracking-probably-caused-blackpool-earthquakes-in-u-k-.html

    PG>Trucking should be stopped until we’ve had an inquiry into whether trucking damages roads and pollutes the atmosphere.

    Er, we know it does but accept that in balance against the usefulness of trucking. No need for an inquiry.

    >You know that Taranaki has been fracking for 25 years?

    All that proves is the geology of where it’s been done so far may be ok. Doesn’t mean it is everywhere else. Doesn’t mean it isn’t.
    Again, you need to know all the risks and evaluate each new proposed site against them. And if that’s what is done now, it needs to be made clear.

    The way to reassure the public something is safe is with independent facts, not one (biased) side rubbishing the other’s arguments or calling each other names.
    Because ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?”

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  25. insider (845 comments) says:

    @ mary rose

    Those earthquakes were the strength of a truck driving past on the main road. Go stand next to a construction site where piling or heavy machinery is operating and you will feel similar. NZ has hundreds of similar sized quakes every month.

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  26. philu (12,989 comments) says:

    i have been following this one for awhile..

    ..so have a reasonable cache..stretching back to 06/10…

    http://whoar.co.nz/?s=fracking

    phillip ure@whoar.co.nz

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  27. chiz (1,174 comments) says:

    Mary rose:The way to reassure the public something is safe is with independent facts

    Nope. Won’t work. See the debates on creationism, fluoridation, alternative medicine or genetic engineering for counterexamples. Many people don’t accept “indepedent” facts unless they agree with them, and any facts they disagree with are dismissed.

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  28. mister nui (1,030 comments) says:

    ….nasty chemicals are in all oil wells, the biggest chemicals being the toluenes, xylenes, napthas and benzenes that are being extracted.

    Yes, the Toluene one always makes me laugh, it is actually a bloody awful chemical. If only all those housewives actually knew what one of the key constituents of their nail polish is….. Toluene.

    Fraccing is perfectly safe, it has just found to be an emotive issue that the Greens have found has resonance with the proletariat, so they have successfully managed to turn this into a safety campaign, when their real ambition is to shut down any oil and gas exploration and production.

    Right now, many frac jobs are completed with zero chemicals, just sand and water, as in certain places the companies are not allowed to use fraccing fluids containing any chemicals.

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  29. Put it away (2,872 comments) says:

    Watermelon opposition to fracking has nothing whatever to do with whether it’s safe, they oppose it because they WANT oil to run out.

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  30. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    Insider>Those earthquakes were the strength of a truck driving past on the main road. Go stand next to a construction site where piling or heavy machinery is operating and you will feel similar.

    OK. See, that’s the sort of thing an inquiry could make clear.

    >NZ has hundreds of similar sized quakes every month.

    That’s rather the point!! Could triggering an ‘artificial’ one upset things enough to trigger a bigger natural one?

    Chiz>Many people don’t accept “indepedent” facts unless they agree with them, and any facts they disagree with are dismissed.

    Sure. But all you need to do to get legitimacy for something is you to convince/reassure the majority. You can then dismiss the fringe.

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  31. scrubone (3,097 comments) says:

    That’s rather the point!! Could triggering an ‘artificial’ one upset things enough to trigger a bigger natural one?

    No.

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  32. scrubone (3,097 comments) says:

    OTOH, Maybe trucks caused the Canterbury earthquakes then? Perhaps we need a ban on trucks until we can sift through all the evidence!

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  33. insider (845 comments) says:

    @ mary rose

    Why would you have an inquiry to establish what is already clear and well documented? Frankly these regular calls for ‘an inquiry’ about anything with any uncertainty seem more about pacifying the deliberately ignorant and pandering to their fantastical fears than a desire for rationality or an acceptance of a wide body of pre-existing evidence. Let’s have an inquiry in werewolves and witches too, because they might exist and could be harmful. Did you know water reservoirs cause earthquakes? Why not have a moratorium and ban them until we ‘fully understand all the risks’. Let’s drain Lake Taupo just in case. I mean it sits on a volcanic area so it could induce an eruption right? We can’t know it won’t, so let’s invoke the precautionary principle, just in case.

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  34. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    scrubone.
    You could have left it at ‘no.’
    Or explained how it is safe, when as a lay person for all I know it could be like setting off an explosion in avalanche country.
    But thanks for ridiculing my lack of knowledge as an afterthought. I bow to your sense of superiority.

    Insider>Why would you have an inquiry to establish what is already clear and well documented?

    Where? And by whom? All I’ve seen is conflicting claims from biased viewpoints.
    All I suspect most ordinary people want is basic answers to basic questions, in language they don’t need a science degree to understand, and from an independent source.

    Surely it’s in the interests of the companies behind it to get the majority of the (uninformed) public on their side?
    Rather than expect the public to source whatever/wherever this documentation is.
    An independent inquiry would answer their concerns, and assuming you are right, show up the claims that it’s dangerous as alarmist nonsense.

    OK, it wouldn’t satisfy everyone. But it would marginalise those who didn’t accept the facts.

    You can accept that people have genuine questions and would like unbiased answers.
    Or you can sneer at people for having concerns, tell them ‘the evidence is out there’. And leave the alarmists’ claims unchallenged.

    And if you insult people by suggesting that because they don’t have any knowledge of the intricacies of a mining technique and geology, that means they are deliberately ignorant, don’t understand trucks and believe in werewolves, you’re probably not going to win them over to your side.

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  35. chiz (1,174 comments) says:

    Mary Rose:An independent inquiry would answer their concerns, and assuming you are right, show up the claims that it’s dangerous as alarmist nonsense. OK, it wouldn’t satisfy everyone. But it would marginalise those who didn’t accept the facts.

    The Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering didn’t succeed in marginalising the fringe.

    Sure. But all you need to do to get legitimacy for something is you to convince/reassure the majority.
    […]
    All I suspect most ordinary people want is basic answers to basic questions

    Sometimes basic questions don’t have basic answers. In the case of Genetic engineering for example its very easy for people to raise questions which can only be rebutted by getting technical. Even in the case of fracking you have problems with the large number of people who don’t understand ‘chemicals’ and toxicology.

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