Anti-fracking alliance cautions pro-frackers: fracking regulations to be set aside

“Keep your exploration and fracking plans on ice.” This was the advice from Marcus Pawson, AfriForum’s Head of Environmental Affairs, to delegates attending the Academy of South African Scientists (ASSAF) conference in Port Elizabeth today. Some delegates were surprised and others happy to learn that AfriForum and Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) had formed an alliance and would be meeting the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in court in February next year.

When questioning the ASSAF on whether or not the regulations had been formulated before enough scientific evidence had surfaced to guide regulations, and that the wrong Minister had formulated and promulgated the fracking regulations, Prof. Jan Glazewski from the University of Cape Town (UCT), answered that AfriForum would most likely be successful in its court case against the DMR as the regulations had been promulgated without the Department being lawfully authorised to do so.

Pawson told the media that the court action focused on the unsuitability of the regulations that govern shale gas exploration and production. The alliance had asked the court among other things to set the regulations aside – an outcome that would affect every shale gas and allied exploration or production activity. Pawson confirmed that the alliance would write to every exploration applicant to inform them of the impending court action.

Jonathan Deal, Treasure Karoo Action Group’s CEO, noted that the conference theme “Towards a science action plan” indicated that the ASSAF had already decided that shale gas exploration (and ultimately production) would go ahead in South Africa. “We find this extraordinary given the clear messages of pollution and ancillary risks that are highlighted in the 2017 ASSAF and CSIR reports on the issue of fracking in South Africa. In these reports, the scientists – arguably the best in South Africa – were unequivocal in describing pollution and other events as ‘inevitable’,” he said.

Pawson added that in light of the catastrophic drought currently gripping South Africa, we had to ask ourselves on behalf of all South Africans whether it made sense to risk what precious water we had left in order to extract gas.

Deal pointed out that, bearing in mind that both the opponents and the supporters of fracking could produce scientific articles to suit their own viewpoints, the nature of all developments that were considered ought to be weighed carefully against a few inescapable facts. For example, the jobs that had been promised to local communities by Shell were so inflated that it seemed too good to be true: Shell’s figures ranged from 300 000 to 700 000, while South Africa’s top scientists calculated no more than 3 000. And even if Eskom had been in a position to make immediate use of large quantities of gas, the same product could be sourced without delay and more economically from sources in Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique and even the USA – all of this without risking precious water while also drilling above, around, below and through the underground water aquifers from which South Africa drew much of its drinking and agricultural water.

In conclusion, Pawson said that available facts indicated that renewable energy sources trumped fossil fuels in the creation of jobs, while solar and wind installations did not disrupt agriculture and tourism, nor threaten water sources. Indications were that the emergence of a short-lived fracking industry would benefit only a few connected and privileged individuals at the expense of many ordinary South Africans. “On that basis, the alliance stands firm against the polluting and unnecessary mining of our country,” he said.


Community members can support the alliance by sending an SMS with “Fracking” to 45354 (R1).

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