Western Australia’s peak environment group has warned that the lead government regulator for gas fracking in WA cannot be trusted to protect community health, groundwater and the environment due to conflicts of interest, inadequate regulations and a lack of transparency.
Documents released via freedom of information reveal taxpayer-funded public relations professionals in the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) have been working closely with the gas industry to promote fracking in WA’s groundwater areas, while at the same time the Department withholds key information from communities.
Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen said “With fracking not being assessed by the EPA and exempt from environmental pollution controls, it is left up to the DMP protect the community from groundwater contamination and health impacts.”
“Instead the agency is rolling out the red carpet for the fracking industry, promoting gas fracking in our groundwater aquifers and working with gas companies to mislead the community about the risks.
“Gas fracking is one of the most toxic and polluting industries on the planet and government polling shows that there is strong opposition across the state. Gas companies are employing a lot of PR professionals to overcome this community opposition.
“But when we have public servants in government regulatory bodies running PR campaigns for industry at taxpayer expense, then we have a serious cause for concern.
“While on one hand the DMP is hiring PR professionals to work with gas companies, at the same time the agency is withholding groundwater monitoring information, management plans and other critical information from the communities who are affected by fracking proposals.
“This is an agency that is behaving in a way that is unaccountable to the public and community.
“How can the community have confidence in the regulator when the responsible Minister writes pro-fracking articles in the West Australian making ridiculous and unbelievable claims that shale gas fracking has never caused groundwater contamination?
“Rather than continuing this embarrassing charade, Minster Marmion and the DMP would gain more trust by acknowledging the industry’s shocking environmental record and putting in place strong regulations to address it.
“Minister Marmion has declared that the DMP conducts thorough environmental assessments; however the Department will not release the details of those assessments nor any other critical information about gas fracking projects to the community.
“This lack of transparency has even been criticised in Parliament by Nationals MP’s, and only serves to further undermine community confidence in the regulator and Minister.”
Comment: Piers Verstegen – 0411 557 892