Shale gas alliance draws a line with SA government


The AfriForum/TKAG (Treasure the Karoo Action Group) alliance has served Ngoako Ramathlodi, Minister of Mineral Resources, with a letter demanding specific undertakings and action from the Department.

Key to the letter, which clearly outlines the concerns of the alliance, are among other things the following demands – each of which requires a written undertaking or other definite action by the Minister:
A moratorium prohibiting the submission, consideration and issuing of exploration licences and rights prior to the finalisation of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) reports, or alternatively, that the consideration and issuing of exploration licences and rights will be halted pending the finalisation of the SEA and ASSAf reports.

Amendment or suspension of the current fracking regulations until such time as the public has been adequately involved in the legislative process and the contents of the SEA have been considered.

That the Minister of Mineral Resources will not accept or consider any application or issue any rights for exploration or production to Shell SA or any subsidiary as long as the Batho Batho trust has any interest in Shell SA, either directly or indirectly, and that the Minister will not issue any mineral prospecting or mining licence or right and petroleum exploration or production licence or right to any company in which any political party either directly or indirectly holds an interest.

That the Minister of Mineral Resources will consider or cause to be considered the contents of the Canadian and New York reports and provide the alliance with written proof of such consideration within two years. (The Canadian and New York reports stand up to international scientific scrutiny and are unequivocal in their view that fracking holds significant risk to the environment, water and community health. The NY report also decisively questions the claimed economic benefits of fracking.)
That the Minister of Mineral Resources will not accept any applications for petroleum exploration or production licences or rights prior to the determination of the resources required to monitor petroleum exploration and production activities and enforce environmental and other legislation applicable thereto.

Explaining the rationale behind the letter of demand, TKAG leader Jonathan Deal said that it was necessary for the alliance to institute this action because President Zuma, various ministers in the Presidency and the DMR have repeatedly confirmed to the media and stakeholders that exploration licences will be granted to the applicants during 2015.
“No one can deny that a vast body of evidence in support of a cautionary approach has developed outside South Africa. The Minister of Environmental Affairs has commissioned the CSIR to conduct a broad and multidisciplinary Strategic Environmental Assessment of all aspects of shale gas mining. The alliance is formally involved in the monitoring of this process, which has already commenced, and we are optimistic that this will be a thorough scientific exercise that will properly inform our government in the appropriate and responsible formulation of policy.” Deal is due to speak on 18 August at the annual congress of the Vroue Landbouvereniging van Kaapland in Cradock and will outline the alliance’s plans to the delegates.”
Continuing, Deal reasoned:
“As it stands at present, there is no impediment to the DMR in terms of issuing licences for shale gas exploration in South Africa before the country has properly considered all the issues and complied with the obligations inherent in the laws of the country and our Bill of Rights. An example of one single concern is that although the scale of exploration is smaller than that of production, the same intrinsic risks to water, the environment and community health are presented. Moreover, exploration activities will at some point require the use of fracking. The alliance has thoroughly researched its case, and we can find no reason to be silent or to fail to act at this time.”

AfriForum’s Head of Environmental Affairs, Julius Kleynhans, confirmed that a specialist legal team had been briefed: “AfriForum has a well-deserved reputation for ensuring that Government operates within the law and the tenets of the Bill of Rights. On the basis of statements and action by Government we are convinced that Government has violated certain laws, and is on the point of committing further violations of legal and Constitutional obligations. It is within our mandate to facilitate the rectification of breaches and to take action to prevent further breaches. The question of shale gas mining in this country is not an issue that should be agreed by a cosy compact between the applicants for licences and our country’s leaders.”

International developments

Meanwhile, a new report by Trillium Asset Management revealed that California’s public pension funds incurred a significant loss of over $5 billion during the past year due to their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.
A report by Reuters revealed that despite the hype around shale oil, it currently provides in only one twentieth of global oil demand, which leads to questions regarding the rationale for the scale of global attention on shale oil.
Last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced that Shell accidentally spilled 326 166 pounds of butadiene, which escaped through an open valve on a tank at the Shell Oil facility in Deer Park.

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