In the latest bout of the nine-year fight by farmers to stop fracking in a semi-arid area of South Africa, a small-town lawyer has delivered a right hook.
It was a career defining moment that will live with lawyer Derek Light for the rest of his life: listening as Judge Gerald Bloem in the Grahamstown High Court, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, ruled that fracking in the Karoo region was unlawful. It was the punch Light had been waiting years to throw and it sent a battered and bruised government back to the drawing board.
“[The feeling] was overwhelming. You are viewed as a bunch of country people just making a noise. So when you go in a court, on an aspect that is nationally important and it’s got complex legal issues, and the court finds for you, you’re vindicated,” says Light.
This January marked the ninth anniversary when this quiet, unassuming, small-town lawyer and a handful of farmers challenged multi-million-dollar oil corporations and the South African government to stop hydraulic fracturing in their backyards.
“I always say to people I’m not a banner-waving green extremist, I’m a lawyer. What we want is a lawful process and our rights not to be unlawfully hinged… [we] are not just a bunch of country idiots behaving in an unreasonable fashion,” says Light.
Tydens ‘n geleentheid wat vandag deur die Nasionale Persklub in Pretoria gereël is, het Agri SA sy posisie ten opsigte van hidrouliese breking vir skaliegas-ontginning in die Karoo en elders in Suid-Afrika herbevestig.
In sy sterkste uitspraak, oor die onderwerp tot dusvêr, het die President van Agri SA, Johannes Möller, gesê dat gegewe die oorblywende onsekerhede oor watervoorsiening en besoedelingsaangeleenthede wat verband hou met skaliegas-ontwikkeling deur middel van onkonvensionele eksplorasie- en produksietegnieke in die vorm van hidrouliese breking, Agri SA nie tans die regering se voortgesette pogings in hierdie verband kan ondersteun nie.
Mnr Möller het beklemtoon dat Agri SA nietemin verbind bly tot steun aan die regering om ekonomiese ontwikkeling in Suid-Afrika te verseker.
Agri SA se provinsiale affiliasie in KwaZulu-Natal het onlangs interdikte in Pretoria se Hooggeregshof verkry om die Petroleumvereniging van Suid-Afrika (PASA) te verbied om die onderskeie aansoeke vir ‘n eksplorasiereg en ‘n tegniese permit aan Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa (Pty) Ltd toe te staan. Die betrokke gebied beslaan in totaal 1,6 miljoen hektaar en 15 000 plase in daardie provinsie.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust has warned that the Karoo and large parts of the Northern Cape face an “uncertain future” after government approved prospecting rights for hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Minister of Minerals and Energy, Mosebenzi Zwane, recently announced that government policy would make provision for energy companies to start prospecting for shale gas in the Karoo.
This decision follows the release of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Shale Gas in 2016, which aimed to provide a more holistic assessment of the impact of shale gas extraction on the economy, environment and people.
Among the findings of the SEA report was that job opportunities within the shale gas sector would be less than what was widely proclaimed and that the availability of water would be a restricting factor for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Karoo.
In August 2016, after carefully considering the available evidence, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) adopted the position that impacts from fracking are poorly understood and that the current regulatory framework is insufficiently equipped to properly regulate the activity.