Sasha Planting
2 minute read
24 Jul 2014
3:00 pm

Anti-frackers come out guns blazing

Sasha Planting

Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) has launched a determined assault on what it sees as government's unstoppable momentum towards fracking for shale gas in the Karoo.

FILE PICTURE: The Karoo near Willowmore, Eastern Cape. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons (Winfried Bruenken)

The nonprofit organisation has called for an extension on the moratorium on fracking and spelled out its reasons in a 17-page letter addressed to President Jacob Zuma and nine Cabinet ministers.

The NGO wants a response from government within the next 30 days. It wants it to halt the advent of fracking and stop making misleading statements on the subject until the various issues and obligations are resolved.

If government does not respond, it will turn to litigation.

The letter details the “fatal flaws” in government’s approach to shale gas – among them the lack of a proper public consultation process, the flawed environmental management plans submitted by the applicants and the lack of a proper regulatory framework and enforcement capacity.

This criticism is backed by three research reports: the De Wit review – a critique of the economic model used in the widely quoted Econometrix study into the possible economic benefits of shale gas mining; the Havemann report, which examines the environmental management plan submitted by Shell; and a peer-reviewed study released in Canada by the Council of Canadian Academies. It looks at the environmental and social impacts of shale gas mining in Canada.

TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal, says, “The new scientific evidence we have placed before President Zuma and the Cabinet, when read in context of the debate and in the light of a dearth of public participation, must surely raise red flags for government regarding constitutionality, sustainability, science and the rule of law.

“The premature litany of ‘game-changer, game-changer’ in South Africa has gone far enough. We have taken serious note of the promises of President Zuma to South Africa in connection with fracking and are now poised to take legal steps,” says Deal.

“This is not about the birds and bees; it’s about water and hard-nosed economics. We would not have the cheek to talk about it [the environment] when the country needs energy and people need jobs; but we are not convinced this is the way to go.”

But judging from several public statements, government believes this is the way to go. In his state of the nation address in February, Zuma said: “Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences.”

Among its criticisms, TKAG says government’s task team report was hurried through and pays lip service to public participation. TKAG also believes the environmental management plans submitted by applicants are highly defective.

Some argue the exploration should go ahead in order to determine the available reserves.