World leaders recently met in Glasgow to forge a path through the climate crisis, but here in Australia, the emissions-intensive gas fracking industry wants to lay waste to some of the beautiful, natural places we hold most dear.
In WA, where I live, the McGowan government recently caved to pressure from Texan fracking company Black Mountain. Its subsidiary, Bennett Resources, was granted an exemption to the government's onshore gas export ban. This threatens to open up the Kimberley to fracking gas fields for export scale production and could devastate the region's natural and cultural heritage.
It's a similar story being told across regional Australia, with governments of all stripes caving to pressure from oil and gas companies. The Northern Territory's Roper-Gulf Region and the Channel Country floodplains of Queensland's Lake Eyre Basin are also in the industry's sights.
We've already witnessed the devastation unconventional gas caused and is continues to cause on the Darling Downs in Queensland. Water bores used for farming have been drained and the underground water table has dropped hundreds of metres.
In the west, we've also suffered due to fracking. Uranium was detected in wastewater at a fracking operation in the Kimberley, which took place before the now rescinded moratorium. The fracking company, Buru Energy, had a solution to deal with the uranium - water it down, and feed it to cattle.
Frustratingly in WA, we have a list of recommendations to mitigate the worst impacts of fracking - but the government has failed to implement them in full. As it stands, Traditional Owners, landholders, and communities do not have an unequivocal right to refuse access to fracking companies - a key recommendation of the fracking inquiry.
The inquiry was also based on a small-scale domestic industry, but if Black Mountain is going to export gas, then it will likely need to drill thousands of frack wells across the Kimberley region. The impact of an industry of that size hasn't been considered.
The impact of fracking on the environment is not limited to what occurs on the ground, or even beneath it. The burning of fracked gas, and the fugitive methane emissions that escape, will only worsen the climate crisis, which is already impacting regional Australia through more intense fires, floods and droughts.
State governments took a cautious approach to the pandemic, and kept communities safe. It's a shame governments aren't exercising the same kind of caution with the climate crisis.
- Simone van Hattem, Lock the Gate Alliance WA coordinator.