Fracking chemicals not logged for 22 yrs

Last updated 09:08 14/10/2012

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Fracking was undertaken 72 times over 22 years in Taranaki with no monitoring of the type or volume of chemicals used, according to information provided to the Sunday Star-Times.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into rock masses thousands of metres below the earth to help release oil and gas. From 1989 until August 2011 the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) did not require resource consent for fracking. Companies discharging "fracking fluid" into the earth were not required to submit records of the type and amounts of chemicals used.

The Green Party said this showed local and central government "dropping the ball" in overseeing the potential effects of fracking on New Zealand. "How can the council be monitoring the environmental effects of the chemicals if they don't have records of what chemicals were used?" said Gareth Hughes, Green Party energy spokesman. The lack of oversight should warrant a halt on all fracking until its environmental safety is confirmed.

The TRC accused the Greens of "sensational grandstanding", saying there was no need to require resource consent for chemicals used in such low concentrations and activity that was a "very low environmental risk at such depth".

Fred McLay, director-resource management at TRC, said the chemicals were the same as those used in normal household products.

As the level of fracking activity rose and public interest and media attention increased, the TRC has required resource consent for fracking since August 2011 and has processed 13 hydraulic fracturing resource consents. Despite now requiring resource consent, the TRC insists the chemicals used are harmless.

The parliamentary commissioner for the environment is currently undertaking an official investigation into fracking, expected to be released later this year.

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