TKAG slams fracking task team
Cape Town - The special task team appointed to investigate proposed fracking for shale gas in the Karoo basin is a "sham", anti-fracking lobby group Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) said on Wednesday.
The group was responding to a written reply to a parliamentary question by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.
Shabangu said the team was chaired by mineral resources department director general Sandile Nogxina and comprised the deputy directors general of the departments of mineral resources, science and technology, and trade and industry, as well as the CEO of the Petroleum Agency of SA (Pasa).
The team was supported by a working group of representatives from Pasa, the Council for Geoscience, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, she said.
"Public interest issues, including concerns raised by interested and affected parties during the consultation processes of the applicants shall be taken into account by the task team.
"It shall thus not be necessary to subject the outcomes to further peer review and public commentary."
The task team's recommendations would determine the termination date of the moratorium recently placed on gas exploration in the Karoo, as well as the terms upon which applications and proposed operations would be assessed, Shabangu said.
TKAG chair Jonathan Deal said in a statement on Wednesday it was clear from the reply that the task team would not be interviewing farmers or businesses or tourism bodies in the Karoo before making their decision.
"We're appalled that key ministries such as water and environment, tourism, transport, agriculture, and others are excluded from the team.
"The constitution of the team and the exclusive nature of its mandate renders any report from it worthless in the debate on fracking," he said.
TKAG was specifically concerned that complete autonomy had been awarded to the team in terms of the date on which the moratorium would be lifted, as well as the terms upon which applications and proposed operations would be assessed.
"The fact that the task team excludes every other ministry and role player in this country with the exception of departments of trade and industry, science and technology, and minerals is for TKAG a clear indicator of the decision that can be expected from the team - fracking will be given the green light," Deal said.
Even the working group comprises only representatives of Pasa, the Council for Geosciences, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
"This is not the way a democratic government should be behaving. One would expect the task team, which is dealing with such an important issue, to represent all interested parties."
Fracking had damaged water supplies in a number of American states, and yet there was not a member of the water affairs department on the task team.
Farmers' land would be disturbed, and yet there was no representative of any farmers. Nor were there any environmental NGOs.
"How can the Cabinet expect to find answers to their environmental concerns if the department of the environment and the department of water are not involved?
"Any report from this team which may give the go ahead to fracking will expose the minister of mineral resources to international ridicule and pave the way for a legal opposition from concerned South Africans," Deal said.