Fracking bans go global…

23 09 2011

In June this year France became the first country to ban the controversial oil and gas mining practice of hydraulic fracking. Under the new law, companies with exploration permits had two months to declare whether they intended to use hydraulic fracturing – if they did, their permits were to be revoked.

The government of South Africa has extended a ban on fracking for another six months while the Minister of Mineral Resources waits on a report from the heads of government departments responsible for trade, science and minerals to be rewritten.

In Australia the New South Wales Governement recently extended  a ban on fracking to the end of the year. A further ban on toxic chemicals will be in place when the moratorium is lifted.

Across North America local municipalities have been taking action to ban fracking. In the state of Pennsylvania alone more than 100 townships have passed ordinances to restrict or ban mining, particularly fracking activities, within their jurisdiction. Thus far municipality-adopted fracking bans are in places such as Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Morgantown and Westover, West Virginia.

In June the New York State Assembly extended an existing ban on fracking for another year. The New Jersey State legislature passed a bill to permanently ban fracking earlier this year but the Governor vetoed that decision and restricted the ban to one more year.

In the case of Morgantown, the ban stonewalled Northeast Natural Energy, LLC’s fracking operations just outside city limits. In June, Northeast sued the municipality, seeking tens of millions of dollars for the unlawful taking of its property rights without just compensation and last month a judge upheld the company’s claims and reversed the local council decision. The court decision is expected to be appealed.

Should Gisborne District Council or any other local authority decide, after widespread consultation with its residents, to change our District Plan rules and put a hold or ban on fracking within our district, can we expect similar litigation from foreign corporations keen to exploit our natural resources for their profit?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the impact of fracking and last Tuesday submitted a draft of its study to the agency’s Science Advisory Board for review. Initial findings from the study are expected to be made public by the end of 2012. No such study has been commissioned in New Zealand yet and a growing number of people I have been speaking believe we should access to a similar report before allowing any fracking-related activity in the Gisborne District.

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