Farmers make progress against frackers

Agricultural lobby group Agri SA has claimed progress in its battle against fracking. It released a statement in which it welcomed a Court ruling which suggests that government is proceeding unlawfully.

“Government’s intention to proceed with a shale gas industry through hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking) was dealt a significant blow on Tuesday, the 17th of October 2017, when the Eastern Cape High Court retrospectively set aside the 2015 decision by the Minister of Mineral Resources to enact Regulations for Petroleum Exploration and Production (commonly known as the Fracking Regulations),” said the farmers’ group.

Niall Kramer, the CEO of the SA Oil and Gas Alliance (SAOGA) said the potential of fracking is “enormous”, but he accepted this must be done within a sound regulatory environment.

“We still need to establish the viability and extent of SA gas reserves. But we do need policy, law and regulations that are properly developed and sound, and we need responsible and experienced companies to explore within that framework,” he said.

Agri SA suggested that this week’s court battle is a setback for fracking.
“The Fracking Regulations, which have been in place since June 2015, were regarded as a vital statutory requirement for the granting of shale gas exploration and production rights in South Africa,” it noted.

“The application for the review and setting aside of the Fracking Regulations was brought by the President of Agri Eastern Cape, Douglas Stern, together with 15 other applicants, including the Graaff-Reinet, Cradock, Jansenville and Buffelshoek Agricultural unions.”

Opponents of fracking believe that it will lead to environmental scarring and possible contamination of underground water sources.

Aware of the dangers, the government has agreed to proceed with exploration, and it will then assess the safety and viability of allowing the extraction of shale gas to proceed.

“In reaching his decision, Judge GH Bloem accepted the undisputed major possible impacts of fracking and shale gas development with respect to air, soil and groundwater contamination due to uncontrolled gas or fluid flows arising from blow-outs or spills, interception of naturally occurring fractures and fissures, well failures, corrosion of casings, cementing failure, leaking fracturing fluid and uncontrolled wastewater discharge,” said Afri SA.

“Advocates for the applicants (the farmers) argued that the Minister of Mineral Resources was not authorised to make the Fracking Regulations, that it contravened the provisions of the National Environmental Management Act and the National Water Act and that their making was procedurally unfair. The Court agreed. It also made an adverse costs order against the Minister of Mineral Resources.

“The Court further took issue with the Minister of Mineral Resources’ enactment of the Fracking Regulations which unilaterally amended an agreement with the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Minister of Water Affairs in terms of which the regulation of the environmental impacts of mining have since September 2014 fully been regulated in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.

“In commenting on the judgement, Douglas Stern commended the efforts of the Eastern Cape agricultural community in persevering with their continued opposition to fracking in that province.”

The Department of Mineral Resources has been approached for comment, which will be added to this article if it is forthcoming.

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