Northern Territory approves first onshore gas exploration drilling

The Northern Territory has approved its first Environment Management Plan (EMP) for onshore shale gas exploration drilling in the McArthur Basin.

The completion of 31 recommendations from the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing were required in order for shale gas exploration and drilling to commence.

The Santos McArthur Basin EP 161 Drilling Program 2019 EMP received 22 submissions as a result of the public consultation process.

Santos revised its EMP following the public consultation process, including the wastewater management plan and spill management plan, ensuring that environmental risks will be controlled and reduced to a level that is as low as reasonably practical and acceptable.

As part of the decision to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, new regulations require the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources to publish an EMP for public comment on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) website where the activity involves the drilling of a petroleum well or hydraulic fracturing, and the outcome of the decision, including a statement of reasons.

Northern Territory Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Eva Lawler, said, “Our environment is important and the Territory Labor Government understands that it is a large part of what makes living in the Northern Territory so special.

“As a Government, we are restoring trust and certainty through the implementation of a robust, clear and transparent set of rules and guidelines on how the environment must be protected – good environment policy is smart economic policy.

“Providing the community with a legislative right to have their say on an EMP relating to drilling or fracking will help restore trust and transparency – a process that did not exist under the previous CLP government.”

APPEA has welcomed the changes to the regulatory framework for the onshore gas industry.

APPEA Northern Territory Director, Keld Knudsen, said that the NT Government has acknowledged the key role the oil and gas industry can play in revitalising the Territory’s economy.

“The industry will play a crucial role in growing the Territory’s economy and promoting regional development through further investment in developing the NT’s natural resources.

“The sector remains committed to working with the Territory Government and local business community to maximise opportunities for employment, while making a meaningful low-carbon contribution to our energy needs.

“The Territory’s oil and gas industry offers jobs, local contracts and diversified incomes while upholding safety and operating safely to protect water and the environment.

“We’re determined to play our part to ensure all Territorians benefit from the development of their natural resources.”

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