No fracking without environmental impact assessment

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 24 February 2011

The need for South Africa to explore for gas is also informed by its interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters says.

Waste pit on hydraulic fracturing site. Photo by TXsharon

Responding to questions during a media briefing at Parliament about the outcry over shale gas exploration in the Karoo using the fracking method, Peters said that while South Africa knew it had potential for gas, “we’re also alive to the environmental challenges that the process would generate”.

That was why the government would ensure that any development was subjected to environmental impact assessment.

“And I believe that the shale gas exploration would allow us as South Africans to know whether we do have enough gas reserves to use them for power generation or for any other energy need that we have in South Africa.”

Peters said she would advise and request the environmental groups to understand that the need for South Africa to explore for gas was also informed by its interest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Because if we don’t use that gas for whatever purposes that we would want to use it for, it will be released into the atmosphere and it will also create another particular challenge.”

It was important to engage the environmental groups and appeal to them to understand that South Africa needed to develop and create the necessary jobs.

“But, we are alive to the need for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also to make sure that we adhere to the National Environmental Management Act (Nema),” Peters said.

The Cape Times reported earlier this week that farmers, landowners and community members in the Karoo were bolstering their opposition to applications by energy companies Shell, Bundu and Falcon to explore for shale gas, a non-renewable form of energy, in 95,000km2 in the Karoo.

Shell was the largest applicant and had submitted three applications which extended over 90,000km2.

The exploration and mining method it intended using was a “highly invasive, water-intensive and potentially toxic process called fracking”, the newspaper reported.

A key collective initiative had been launched in Graaff-Reinet, where attorney Derek Light was spearheading the legal opposition against Shell, Bundu and Falcon on behalf of hundreds of Karoo farmers, landowners and community members.

The paper quoted Light as having said: “The available information on fracking indicates that it is a highly invasive process with a high risk of contamination of the environment and, in particular to underground water and air, it necessitates the use of large volumes of water for the drilling process and substantial quantities of water in the fracking process.

“It also involves the use of sand and highly toxic chemicals.”

Shell and Golder Associates (the company appointed by Shell to conduct its public participation process and compile its Environmental Management Programme) had publicly stated that fracking posed no risk to the environment, the Cape Times reported.

– Sapa

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