Australia’s Minister of Resources, Keith Pitt, has announced that three new grants, valued at A$19.4m, will be granted to fracking company Imperial Oil & Gas, which is leading gas exploration in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin.
The announcement comes just two months after a court deemed previous iterations of the grants invalid. These grants, worth A$21m, were ruled “legally unreasonable” by the court, though the opportunity for renegotiation of the funding was permitted. The latest announcement marks the conclusion of these renegotiations.
The Morrison government has previously identified the Beetaloo Basin as an area with significant gas potential, and a cornerstone of its gas expansion plans. Under the grants, Imperial Oil & Gas will be able to continue drilling three petroleum exploration wells.
“The government is committed to a gas-led recovery and we are now getting on with the job of opening up the Beetaloo as part of the Strategic Basins Plan and these grants will assist in that important process,” Pitt said in his statement.
“It is imperative, and to the benefit of all Australians, that new gas developments are opened up as soon as possible to ensure continuing domestic supply to homes and businesses across the country,” he added. “Activists trying to stop or delay crucial gas projects threaten future energy security both here in Australia and in countries around the world that rely on our LNG exports.”
Plans to drill in the area have sparked anger amongst environmental and indigenous groups alike, who say that fracking in the basin will push Australia’s carbon emissions up to beyond its climate commitments.
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Initial grants were denied by the court in December 2021 as the government was found to approve the drilling while a dispute from the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) was ongoing. The court did not, however, uphold the ECNT’s claim that the fracking grants did not adequately take into account impacts on rising global temperatures.
Speaking at the time of the first round of grants, ECNT co-director Dr Kirsty Howey said: “We want to see taxpayers money used wisely and with all the consequences being fully considered. Granting A$21m to a private fossil fuel company should only be done after all care is taken to examine the impacts on climate change, the environment, and the community.
“It’s not apparent from the available public documents that the minister made any inquiries about the climate change risks of gas developments in the Beetaloo,” she added.