New moves to update fracking regulations alarm environmental activists

2022-07-17

As the world faces an energy crisis and a scramble for oil and gas, the South African government is tightening its grip on the highly controversial hydraulic fracturing process and has opened up the subject for public discussion.

Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of injecting chemicals at high pressure into oil and gas-carrying rocks beneath the Earth’s surface. This extraction process can lead to methane leaks, contamination of groundwater and air pollution.

South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has said it is inviting public participation in setting up regulations to “prescribe minimum requirements for the submission of applications for an authorisation, right, permit or licence for the onshore exploration of oil and gas intending to utilise hydraulic fracturing”.

According to the DFFE, the regulations will identify areas and activities prohibited from fracking, such as preventing drinking water from being used and municipal facilities being banned from the disposal of fracking operations waste.

Authorisation

Environmental authorisation would be required for each phase of the fracking process, including seismic surveying, fracking itself and the production phase, said the DFFE. The department added: “This step-wise approach allows for information to be generated to support each phase of the process and will facilitate the consideration of cumulative impacts of the operation.”

The regulations will be supported by two minimum information requirements: environmental requirements for exploration prior to fracking and environmental requirements for exploration and production that uses fracking.

“These documents are to provide guidance to developers on the authorisation requirements for all decision-making and will facilitate a one-stop authorisation process,” the department said.

According to the DFFE, the regulations will identify areas and activities prohibited from fracking, such as preventing drinking water from being used and municipal facilities being banned from the disposal of fracking operations waste.

Authorisation

Environmental authorisation would be required for each phase of the fracking process, including seismic surveying, fracking itself and the production phase, said the DFFE. The department added: “This step-wise approach allows for information to be generated to support each phase of the process and will facilitate the consideration of cumulative impacts of the operation.”

The regulations will be supported by two minimum information requirements: environmental requirements for exploration prior to fracking and environmental requirements for exploration and production that uses fracking.

“These documents are to provide guidance to developers on the authorisation requirements for all decision-making and will facilitate a one-stop authorisation process,” the department said.

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Daily Maverick, 17-07-22
; https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-07-17-new-moves-to-update-fracking-regulations-alarm-environmental-activists/