The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright , released her final report into the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand on Wednesday. Here's six things to know about the report and the ensuing reaction.
A small tick - Wright decided against a moratorium on fracking, saying there was time to 'tweak' the existing regulations. However, she said she did not want to see the report as a "big tick" for the current regulations around fracking. She said the current regulation was "not adequate" and New Zealand needed to get ahead of the game before an expansion of fracking. She pointed to how regulators in Australia and the United States had struggled to catch up when the industry expanded quickly.
Bakken-on-Dannevirke - Wright's warning about the risks of fracking were focused on the shale areas in the East Coast basin near Dannevirke, Gisborne and in the Hawkes Bay. She said the shale there had been compared to the Bakken and Eagle Ford rock formations in the United States. Wright pointed to the risks that earthquakes could damage fracking operations, causing leaks into aquifers that are relied on in a dry area. "Increasingly, the region identifies itself as a producer of premium food, and there would be conflicts between this and a mushrooming oil and gas industry," she said.
The PCE Six - Wright made six recommendations to improve regulations and their enforcement, including the need for a national policy statement, a revision of council plans to deal with oil and gas wells (most don't distinguish between water and petroleum drilling), better designs of wells to avoid leaks into aquifers, the need for ways to decide who pays if something goes wrong, regulations on hazardous substances at well sites and a review of 'land farming'.
'We'll be in touch' - Energy Minister SImon Bridges and Environment Minister Amy Adams welcomed the report, but said the Ministry for the Environment guidelines released in March already regulated fracking in a "robust and controlled" manner. Wright disagreed that the guidelines were sufficient.
Climate change dilemma - The report does address the issue of climate change broadly, pointing out that gas from fracking can replace much more carbon-intensive coal, but may also 'lock-in' industry and the economy into fossil fuels. Wright was also asked about the issue of 'fugitive' emissions of methane through fracking, but she pointed out that gas had less than half the carbon footprint of coal.
'Just stop it' - Green Energy Spokesman Gareth Hughes and Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell called for a moratorium after the release of the report. Hughes said Wright's report "made a mockery" of Bridges' assurances that New Zealand's oil and gas regulation was "world class."