New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment finds Hydraulic Fracturing can be undertaken safely, others remain skeptical

Fracking report gets mixed response, Oil companies are welcoming the PCE’s report into the safety of fracking, but opponents of the drilling process remain sceptical by, November 27, 2012
The petroleum industry is predictably welcoming the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s view that fracking can be carried out safely in New Zealand, but opponents are still sceptical and are calling for a halt.
A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing – injecting water and chemicals into locked up oil and gas deposits to release them – has been ruled out, but commissioner Jan Wright says rules are too light-handed and their complexities could see problems slip through the cracks.

He said the industry had cooperated with Dr Wright’s investigation so far, and intended to carry on being open and transparent as she looks further into the practice. “This interim report helps to show New Zealanders that we can safely grow the oil and gas industry through good regulation, sound engineering and by operating to best practice.” The Green Party is still maintaining its call for a moratorium on fracking, saying it should be halted until proper regulations are in place. A safety-first approach should see the government and councils halt fracking until strong regulations were in place, said energy spokesman Gareth Hughes. The safety-first approach was also urged by Forest & Bird. “Our final views will be guided and heavily informed by the PCE’s further work,” says conservation advocate Claire Browning. Government ministries will now look at what could be done to address Dr Wright’s concerns over regulation of fracking. Dr Wright’s report says accessing more natural gas, the most benign of fossil fuels, is seen as a way to slow climate change. But she warned fracking could expand New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry, which would bring with it more problems with waste. She said she had not seen anything around water contamination that raised a red flag. But if she came across any problems in the second part of her report she would not hesitate to call for a moratorium. [Emphasis added]

PCE finds Hydraulic Fracturing can be undertaken safely by Fuseworks Media, November 27, 2012,
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association’s CEO, David Robinson, today welcomed the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s scrutiny of hydraulic fracturing in her interim report into the practice released today. … “We hope that the Commissioner’s main finding, that fracking can be managed effectively, goes some way to reassuring the public.
The report states that:
There is no evidence that fracking in Taranaki has caused earthquakes felt at surface level (page 41) ;
Migration of contaminants into aquifers through the cracks created during the fracking process is only a remote possibility (page 43);
No evidence that fracking has caused ground water contamination (page 44);
When fracking is done well, the chance and severity of environmental damage are small compared to some other economic activities (page 51).
“We have approached this investigation with openness and transparency, and we intend to continue this approach as the PCE works on the second part of this report.
“As an industry we are always looking at ways to improve the way we operate. We will take on board the PCE’s findings and look forward to her analysis of our regulatory framework and legislation next year.
“Growing the oil and gas industry in a responsible way will bring about significant economic benefits for all New Zealanders. This interim report helps to show New Zealander’s that we can safely grow the oil and gas industry through good regulation, sound engineering and by operating to best practice,” David Robinson said.

Keeping Kiwis safe ‘a top priority’ for petroleum industry by Fuseworks Media, November 27, 2012,
CEO of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association, David Robinson has welcomed the new regulations governing petroleum exploration and extraction in NZ announced today. “The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment today released an interim report into hydraulic fracturing. She plans to release a second report in 2013 which will look at how the environmental impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing are regulated and monitored.

“New regulations, developed in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, are being introduced today which will strengthen the management of hazards that could cause a major accident and reduce the likelihood of an uncontrolled release of oil and gas occurring during well operations.
“The changes announced today will bring the petroleum exploration and extraction sector into line with regulatory practice in the United Kingdom and Australia.
“Our industry has a great track record when it comes to the health and safety of our workers, but that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. We always strive to eliminate risk where we can.

Under the new regulations:
– Operators (both onshore and offshore) will be required to prepare a safety case and submit it to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment for acceptance before the commencement of operations. The Ministry will be able to recover, from operators, the full cost associated with its assessment of safety cases.
– Operators of smaller scale, lower risk onshore production installations will be required to prepare an overview of the measures in place to protect the health and safety of those at, or near the installation in lieu of a safety case.
– All operators will have to report ‘near miss’ incidents that could have led to a major accident – this will ensure the Ministry has sufficient data to inform the targeting of its regulatory interventions.
– The regulatory regime will focus on the whole lifecycle of the well to ensure that wells are designed, modified, commissioned, constructed, equipped, operated, maintained, suspended and abandoned in a way that ensures operators reduce the risks to a level that is as low as is reasonably practicable.
– All operators will be required to implement arrangements for independent and competent persons to examine the design, construction, and maintenance of all wells within their inventory.

Fracking fine Federated Farmers by Fuseworks Media, November 27, 2012,
“Federated Farmers has kept an eye on the PCE investigation given land-based minerals exploration can often occur on or near to farmland,” says Anders Crofoot, Federated Farmers energy spokesperson. “From what I have seen in the PCE’s interim report, she has taken a considered look at fracking. While hydraulic fracturing has been used in New Zealand since 1989, controversy has really only ignited over the past two years, if you excuse the pun. From agriculture’s perspective, we are most interested in land access issues and compensation. As well as what risks the technique may pose to ground and surface water. The PCE found the distance between where fracking occurs and aquifers can be as much as one to two kilometres. There are shallower fracks and I guess this underscores why the PCE recommends a watching brief.”

“The PCE however believes that while contamination of ground or surface water is possible, the probability “is very unlikely”.

“After reading the PCE’s report, I can say that Federated Farmers feels more comfortable with the technique.

“The PCE stresses we frack well in New Zealand but describes regulation and oversight as “labyrinthine”. Clearly, there is a role for Government to ensure regulations are fit for purpose.

“Mining and minerals are important contributors to the economy and employment. Along with agriculture and utilities, mining is one of the few areas where we outperform Australia in terms of productivity,” Mr Crofoot concluded.

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