Skip navigation

Make a submission: Senate Inquiry into Beetaloo Basin fracking

What is the issue?

The Federal Government has committed $50 million to fast track polluting gas fracking in the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.  The  Government plans to subsidise 25% of the cost of new fracking wells for private corporations like Santos, Origin Energy and Imperial Resources.

Traditional Owners have been speaking out against fracking the Beetaloo. And last week the Senate responded to these calls and established an inquiry into fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, with a specific focus on Government handouts to gas companies.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate the widespread public opposition to opening up massive new dirty gas fields. 

What is the context of fracking in the Northern Territory?

We are currently at a critical juncture in the development of fracking and shale gas in the Northern Territory. Both the Northern Territory Government and the Federal Government are promoting a gas-led recovery, with the Beetaloo Basin a key strategic focus. There are disparities in responsibilities. The Territory Government is largely responsible for governance and regulation of shale gas and fracking in the NT. However, the Federal Government has an unmatched power to spend in the Beetaloo and this has been seen already with hundreds of millions of dollars of Federal Government money funding enabling infrastructure in the Beetaloo such as in the form of remote road upgrades, a total cost of $173 million, and in this case $50 million to hasten exploration activities in the Beetaloo. 

Imperial Oil and Gas has recently applied to frack seven wells in the Beetaloo Basin, which will make it the largest fracking development so far in the Territory. Santos has applied to frack a further five wells. The development of fracking wells in the Beetaloo is speeding up!

Make a submission to the Inquiry 

Whether you work for an organisation or are a concerned citizen this Senate Inquiry is an opportunity to resist fracking in the Beetaloo basin and stand in solidarity with Traditional Owners. 

Step 1: Write your submission
Step 2: Make your submission
Step 3: Let us know when you're done so we know how many people are speaking up! Email [email protected] 

The closing date is 5 PM, 7 July. 

We've put together some key messages that you can use in your submission. You can choose to address all of them, or one key issue that is important to you.  Personalised submissions are powerful, so please take some time to introduce yourself and incorporate these talking points in a way that matters to you. If you are from the Northern Territory, let the Senate Inquiry know that!

If you wrote a submission for the Pepper Inquiry in 2017, you can re-submit your previous submission with a cover letter explaining why the concerns from 2017 are still just as relevant.

Upload your submission

Key points for a submission

  • Support the voices of Traditional Owners resisting fracking in the Beetaloo Sub-basin

Traditional Owners from in and around the Beetaloo Sub-Basin sent an open letter to parliamentarians objecting to the exploration and development of the shale gas in the region and went to Parliament to convince senators to support this inquiry. Traditional owners have been leading the fight to protect their country, water and communities from fracking for over a decade now. Tell the government you can’t accept fracking going ahead when Traditional Owners and affected communities have clearly demonstrated their opposition to it.

  • The gas industry won’t bring a jobs boom

In fact, the oil and gas industry is one of the least labour intensive industries in Australia. The gas industry currently employs less that 0.2% of the Australian workforce despite Australia’s position as one of the world’s largest gas exporters. Less people work in the gas industry than work for Bunnings. For every $1 million in sales generated, only 0.4 jobs are created in the gas industry. Gas jobs are highly skilled and the workforce in the Northern Territory is dependent on fly-in, fly-out workers. There are limited job benefits for people in the Northern Territory.

Renewable energy technologies are job rich, while jobs in gas are heavily automated.  Researchers found that job spill over into non-mining employment following Queensland coal seam gas (CSG) development was “negligible”. Retail and manufacturing showed minimal growth whilst other local services jobs and agricultural employment declined. Overall, 9 jobs were lost in the services sector for every 10 new CSG jobs.

  • Gas won’t stimulate the economy

The gas industry won’t stimulate the economy as much as the Government claims. Many oil and gas companies pay a negligible amount of tax and limited royalties, with most profit exiting Australia. Researchers found in 2016-17, oil and gas companies in Australia paid only $81 million in income tax, despite generating tens of billions in revenue. Telstra by comparison generated $1644 million in income tax. The controversial Petroleum Resource Rent Tax only levied $1.1 billion in tax, despite nearly 30 billion in tax receipts in 2017-18 due to the use of tax credits. Read more about the controversial tax loopholes here

Despite generating billions in revenue, only a very limited proportion of that income is paid to the Federal Government.

  • Fracking will result in a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions

The Beetaloo Sub-Basin is the largest gas reserve in Australia, it’s greenhouse gas potential is huge. It was estimated by researchers that fracking in the Beetaloo may account for 7-22% of Australia’s total GHG emissions. The reason this varies so wildly is that it is still unclear how much gas would be extracted from the Beetaloo if it reached production stage. 7% of emissions would be produced in the likely situation that only part of the Beetaloo gas is able to be extracted - “shale breeze” scenario in the Pepper Inquiry, 22% if the majority of the gas within the basin is extracted “shale gale” in the Pepper Inquiry.

Gas is primarily made up of methane which is a highly potent greenhouse gas. It has a warming potential 84 times greater than CO2 over a 20 year period and 28 times greater over a period of 100 years. 

The NT government has promised to offset all lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with fracking, however they do not yet have a policy outlining how this could be done, and it seems implausible as offsetting the emissions associated with fracking the Beetaloo Basin would use more offset credits annually than have been created in Australia thusfar, and the cumulative cost of offsets from 2030 to 2040 (the likely operational life of gas fields) could be up to $146 billion.

  • The Territory is vulnerable to climate impacts

Fracking in the Beetaloo is a disaster for the climate, which has severe implications for Australia and the Territory specifically. The Northern Territory is already a place of climate extremes, and climate change will increase the intensity, frequency and variability of climate events such as heatwaves, droughts, floods and ‘fire weather’

. The Northern Territory is expected to experience a significant increase in extreme heat. By the end of the century Darwin is forecast to experience 288 days a year above 35°C, compared to the historical average of 47. Droughts are predicted to be more intense, there will be fewer frosts, fewer but more intense cyclones and wild fires will become more frequent and harsher. Additionally, the sea-level is expected to rise by more than half a metre by the end of the century and coastal waters are anticipated to have warmed to 1.6-4.1°C depending on the emissions scenario by 2100.

  • Fracking poses a significant risk to water resources

There are a variety of ways fracking can cause environmental contamination and impact our groundwater. Contamination can occur through well failings, barrier failing, waste water pond leakages, increased connectivity between aquifers, injection of water into aquifers and secondary chemical spills. As a result, the fracking poses a significant risk to our water resources. An industry paper published by Schlumberger, one of the world’s largest companies specialising in fracking, admitted about 5 per cent of wells leak immediately, 50 per cent leak after 15 years, and 60 percent leak after 30 years. In the NT corrosive bacteria present in the groundwater meant that all wells will leak eventually.

Recently, 11 new species of stygofauna were discovered in the Beetaloo Sub-Basin. This finding is significant as in addition to the discovery of new species, it confirmed that there is high connectivity between aquifers in the Beetaloo Basin. Read more about these critical organisms which clean our groundwater here

Water-related risks were the central concern raised by the community and in submissions to the Fracking Inquiry. With 90% of water for human consumption including drinking water in the Northern Territory coming from groundwater, fracking poses a heightened risk to these resources.

  • Expand the water trigger of the Environment Protection and Conservation Biodiversity Act (EPBC Act)

The EPBC Act is the Federal Government’s key legislation to protect the environment. The EPBC Act currently does not have powers to protect water resources connected to shale gas activities. 

The ‘water trigger’ ensures that water resources are a matter of national environmental significance in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining development. The water trigger means that an action which involves a coal seam gas development or a large coal mining development requires approval from the Australian Government Minister for the Environment if the action has, will have, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a water resource. 

The’ water trigger’ must be expanded to include shale gas activities. The risk posed by shale gas activities is similar to the risks posed by coal seam gas and large coal mining developments. Shale gas uses large quantities of water, in addition to posing risks to groundwater through contamination.