I am campaigning for the development of a Taranaki-wide energy plan implementing regulations and monitoring practice to the highest standards following the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s final report at the end of the year. The interim report on fracking widened the scope of the investigation to include the period of time from the beginning of a well’s life to it’s abandonment. It was determined there was a potential for serious adverse environmental effects unless all operating processes were completed to the best possible standards.
The Parliamentary Commissioner is independent of the government of the day and has been investigating these matters for 18 months. There has been input from all stakeholders, i.e the industry, the councils, and the public. International best practice and scientific knowledge is being considered.
There were seven interim findings indicated to be at the centre of the final report. The first four included the physical processes of choose the well site carefully; design and construct wells to prevent leaks; prevent spills and leaks on the surface; and store and dispose of waste with care. The final three related to government oversight and regulation. The report stated oversight is complex and fragmented; regulation may be light-handed; and a social licence to operate is yet to be earned.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report does NOT give the big tick to fracking. Nor does it endorse the current regulatory and monitoring regime of Taranaki Regional Council. According to the Council they gave “considerable advice, information and reports” to assist the Commissioner (TRC, 2013, p.12). However she stated she “cannot be confident that operational best practices were actually being implemented and enforced in this country” (PCE, 2012, p.5).
The final PCE report will give independent recommendations on which the Taranaki Regional Council (and central government) should base decision-making regarding regulating and monitoring of oil and gas activities. These recommendations should be the cornerstone of a consistent Taranaki-wide energy plan. This plan would ensure the highest standards are met with regard to the safety of the communities and the environment across Taranaki.