Suck it and see

A recent opinion piece on the Celsias website called “Fracking in Canterbury – No Compulsion to Publicly Notify and No Need to Consider Seismic Effect” highlights several issues that concern sustainability generally.

The “suck it and see” attitude

Just because a technology is available doesn’t mean it has to be introduced. Unfortunately the development of any new technology is likely to create economic opportunities which unscrupulous businesses can take advantage of whilst ignoring, or otherwise being ignorant of, any indirect negative impacts.

History is chock-full of technologies that have been banned once their danger and damage has become evident (although usually not before a few people have become wealthy from it). DDT, asbestos and fluorocarbons are well-known examples.

Fracking involves hydraulically fracturing rock seams in order to release trapped fossil fuels. It is is a highly controversial technology that has been connected to seismic activity as well as concerns over groundwater contamination, air pollution and the use of toxic chemicals in the process. There is more than enough doubt of it’s environmental safety to invoke the precautionary principal and ban it.

However the Environment Canterbury’s website states:

“Environment Canterbury does not have specific regional plan policies or rules for fracking.”

The website goes on to say that consents will be required for such activities that are controlled by the Resource Management Act such as water use and discharges but apart from that it seems that it will be another case of “suck it and see”.

Mandates by Central Government  trump local concerns

Fracking in Canterbury has been opposed by some local bodies and yet the Government has more or less dismissed their concerns. In fact Phil Heatley, the Minister of Energy stated on Christchurch talk back a week ago that anyone who opposes fracking is from the “extreme green lobby” – and therefore should be ignored, presumably.

“Under the Crown Minerals Act, the Minister of Energy gives approval for hydrocarbon exploration and production work programmes but does not deal with the environmental effects of fracking, or approvals/consents required under the Resource Management Act. These matters fall to regional and district councils.”

It seems that in this case, and in many other cases, central Government’s goals and ethos (the Celsias article sums the ethos up as “Drill till it kills”) are completely at odds with the values, goals and concerns of local communities.