Linda Ensor and Shaanaaz de Jager
ANTI-FRACKING activists are disappointed at the cabinet's decision to approve draft technical regulations for the exploration for and exploitation of petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
It involves pressurised water, chemicals and sand being pumped underground to release gas trapped in rock formations. It has been opposed by landowners and environmentalists who say it can pollute water supplies.
Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) chairman Jonathan Deal said he was "absolutely astounded" at the government's decision.
"They are pushing us into a position that leaves us no choice than to oppose this in court."
Graaff- Reinet lawyer Derek Light said the government had in the past "acknowledged a list of significant scientific unknown facts with regards to fracking, which demanded further research.
"Given the significant scientific unknowns, how does the minister begin to draft effective regulations?
"We have both a legal and a scientific team who have been conducting research to equip us to comment meaningfully on the proposed regulations, and we hope to impact positively on the process.
"If this fails, we will launch a legal challenge," Light said.
The draft regulations will be published in the Government Gazette for public comment for 30 days after which they will be reconsidered and resubmitted to the cabinet for final approval.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said at a media briefing yesterday the technical regulations would enhance the safe exploration for shale gas in the Karoo and ensure it took place in a safe and socially responsible way.
The principle of polluter pays had been enshrined in the draft regulations, the minister said, to ensure the environment was rehabilitated after exploration and exploitation.
There are several plans for fracking in the Eastern and Southern Cape.
These include a bid by Shell to commence fracking near Graaff-Reinet, planned gas and oil exploration along the coast between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay by UK oil and gas company OK Energy, which is currently on hold after 700 people signed a petition against it, and PetroSA's Project Kwezi, which is already under way and involves offshore well stimulation with hydraulic fracturing about 100km south of Mossel Bay.
Questions sent to the Camdeboo Municipality regarding fracking commencing near Graaff-Reinet were not answered.
Reuters reports that France’s constitutional council rejected on Friday (11/10/2013) a challenge to a law banning hydraulic fracturing for exploration and production of shale gas and oil.
The ruling is a victory for President Francois Hollande’s ruling coalition, which has opposed the technology.
US-based firm Schuepbach Energy had challenged on four counts a ban introduced in 2011 due to potential risks to the environment, which led to two of its exploration permits being cancelled in southern France.