Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The fracking report

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has just released the first part [PDF] of a major report on fracking. "First part" because the preliminary conclusion - that fracking can be safe if done properly - demands closer examination of our regulatory environment to see if frackers in New Zealand are doing it properly. At the moment, that's simply not clear - thanks to the way responsibility is split across multiple agencies, and to the NeoLiberal cult of "light-handed" regulation which has dominated in New Zealand for the last thirty years, we seem to be essentially leaving it to the industry to regulate itself, which is just asking for trouble.

So, there will be no immediate ban on fracking - its simply not justified without more evidence that it is actually causing a problem. But I think we can expect the PCE to recommend a more prescriptive regulatory approach in the second part of their report, likely including greater guidance to local authorities about consenting, and greater oversight from central government. So the question will be whether National will implement those recommendations, or keep letting the foreign oil industry walk all over us and potentially endanger our environment. Sadly, I think we all know which one option they'll choose...