Thursday, April 21, 2011


Cabinet Endorses Decision On Moratorium On Fracking Licences

Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Comments: 0
Cabinet has endorsed the decision by the mineral resources department to invoke a moratorium on licences in the Karoo Basin where "fracking" is proposed.

"Fracking" is hydraulic fracturing, a technique for extracting shale gas from deep underground by pumping a pressurised mixture of water, sand and chemicals down drill holes.

The department would lead a multi-disciplinary team, including the trade and industry and science and technology departments, to fully research the full implications of the proposed fracking, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told a media briefing following Cabinet's regular fortnightly meeting.

"Cabinet has made it very clear that [a] clean environment together with all the ecological aspects will not be compromised," he said.

On Wednesday, it emerged that there was little chance that oil giant Shell's plans to prospect for shale gas in the Karoo using the "fracking" method would have an impact on South Africa's bid to host the square kilometre array (SKA) radio telescope.

In written reply to a question in the National Council of Provinces, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said an application for prospecting had no impact on South Africa's bid to host the SKA.

"An application can only have impact if granted," she said.

"If the Shell application is granted, and if Shell uses communication systems with frequency ranges that interfere with radio telescope operations, the prospecting will affect radio astronomy."

However, the South African SKA project office (SASPO) had proactively met with Shell and Golder Associates to indicate communications restrictions.

"All operations in the Karoo will be comprehensively addressed through regulations under the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act 2007, which are expected to be finalised in the 2012/13 financial year, following consideration of the outcomes of the public consultations on the astronomy regulations," Pandor said.

The Act gives the sole right to regulate the zone in which the SKA will operate to the minister of science and technology.

South Africa and Australia were shortlisted in 2006 as locations for the SKA project.

The SKA will cost about EU2 billion to build, and require between EU150 million and EU200m a year, for 50 years, to maintain and operate.

An announcement on who has won the bid will be made early next year.

In a statement later on Thursday, the Democratic Alliance welcomed Cabinet's endorsement.

"The DA appreciates that common sense has prevailed," DA spokesman Gareth Morgan said.

The DA also welcomed the announcement that a strategic environmental assessment would be conducted by a multi-disciplinary team.

The endorsement was also welcomed by the Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) in another statement.

"Cabinet clearly realised what other countries have realised -- the issue of fracking is too complex to be decided on by one single authority or one single department."

A multi-disciplinary team should look at an issue of this magnitude.

"From our side, we will now make sure we co-operate with and give all the assistance we can to government as they make sure that every aspect of the environmental impact assessment is taken care of," TKAG said.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nice videos

Stop Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo. from Happy Handgrenade on Vimeo.

Cool Videos

Gas well blowout releases fracking fluid into environment

Gas well blowout releases fracking fluid into environment

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A natural gas driller in Bradford County lost control of a well early this morning, releasing fluids into the environment.
The Atgas 2H well operated by Chesapeake Energy in Leroy Township blew out at around 2 a.m., according to Bradford County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Skip Roupp.
The well was in the process of being hydraulically fractured and Roupp characterized the spilled fluid as "mostly water ... with some contaminants" but he did not know the exact composition of the fluid.
"Evidently the crack is in the top part of the well below the blowout preventer," he said, referring to a device used in emergency situations to choke off flow from a well. "They don't really know what happened yet because they don't have it controlled yet."
Personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection, Bradford County EMA and Chesapeake Energy are on scene, he said.
Roupp said the well site is in a remote area on a mountain top and that the fluid had reached a small stream but had not yet reached any larger streams.
"It was released to the environment," he said, adding that it did not pose a risk to neighbors because of its remote location. "It may be a bigger problem to the environment than people."
No one has been reported injured, he said, and he was not aware of any people being evacuated or any livestock being quarantined as a result of the release.
Gary Wilcox, the county's director of public safety, said the material went into the containment area, a field, a tributary of Towanda Creek and into Towanda Creek, he said. Towanda Creek is a tributary of the north branch of the Susquehanna River.
LeRoy Township is about 75 miles northwest of Wilkes-Barre. 

Read more:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

PASA and Shell Oil alone will not authorize fracking in SA


“PASA and Shell Oil alone will not authorize fracking in SA”

In reaction to a media report today (TimesLive) in which PASA CEO Mthozami Xiphu confirmed that chances favoured Shell getting a green light to frack, TKAG coordinator Jonathan Deal said: “Shell, through it’s local CEO seeks to create the impression that its (Environmental Management Plan) EMP, is the definitive document on which the question of fracking in South Africa will hinge.  This debate is far bigger than one company, and involves the introduction of a controversial technology into South Africa which is presently under fierce environmental, scientific and judicial scrutiny in the US, UK, Canada, France and Germany.”

“The dearth of legislation and knowledge in SA in respect of this technology and the many unanswered questions surrounding real and documented fracking pollution incidents in other countries establish a cast-iron case for application of the precautionary principle by our ministers.  We applaud the Minister of Water Affairs for her no-nonsense approach to speculation about fracking in SA, and trust that PASA, Shell and its co-applicants and the Department of Minerals are more informed as to the fact that others also have a voice in this issue,” he said.

“At the very minimum, TKAG, in support of other organizations such as Wildlife Environmental Society of SA - WESSA, Centre for Environmental Rights -CER, World Wildlife Fund - WWF and Earthlife are calling for an over-arching Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to fully consider all of the factors involved in a decision of this magnitude – before any exploration licence is issued. We do this on the basis that there is no point in issuing a license for a process that may never happen in South Africa. Our government has the mechanisms to halt this process until the issue has been thoroughly assessed, debated and commented on by local and international scientists and all of the stakeholders in SA.”

“The indecent haste of Shell, through their multi-million rand PR campaign proves that they are focused on short-term gains for their shareholders, rather than the interests of this country, and places undue pressure on many of our Ministers who have yet to comment on this issue of critical national importance,” concluded Deal.

[About TKAG – Treasure the Karoo Action group is the coordinating body, representing a broad range of stakeholders who are concerned with the plans of Oil and Mining companies to extract shale gas from the Karoo basin. Popular support can be followed and joined on Facebook and at]
Issued by HWB Communications on behalf of TKAG.For information, please contact:
Jonathan Deal
National Coordinator – Treasure Karoo Action Group
076 838 5150/
Martin Slabbert
HWB Communications
Tel: 021 462 0416/ 079 500 1503 <>  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shell’s SA stakeholders uncovered


Geraldine Bennett** |

13 April 2011 13:03

Karoo series: Shell’s SA stakeholders uncovered

Geraldine Bennett asks them to respond to Shell’s Karoo plans.

Next to Pugh we can touch the fire*
Lewis Gordon Pugh, human polar bear, maritime lawyer, dives into the freezing Arctic wearing a “speedo”, cap and goggles.  Most of us can’t deal with a cold shower. 
Pugh has ‘butterfly-ed’ where no one else has been.  Close to naked in humanly uninhabitable waters Pugh has “touched his fire”.
Between the lines of a “sustained standing ovation” speech in Mother City, Cape Town, Pugh calls for solidarity.  He stresses a “call to arms”.
Is the Shell boycott now public participation?
We will take this fight to every one of your shareholders:Lewis Pugh
By default, this is Old Mutual (JSE:OML), Sanlam (JSE:SLM),BKBFamous Brands (JSE:FBR) (Steers, Wimpy, Milky Lane, Juicy Lucy, Keg and McGinty’s, and more).  And alleged ANC and Sanlam “indirect” investment partner - Thebe InvestmentsThebe Mining and Thebe Energy;
Standard Bank (JSE:SBK) puts in an appearance and there are others but one has to dig deep to find the links.  Stick at it long enough and you’ll find the answers though.  It’s amazing how many moles pop up to a chorus of whistles.    
Stakeholder Activism
Once referred to as “shareholder action” it is now about “stakeholder activism”.  
Every person who feeds the constant thirst of industry and the financial sector is a stakeholder: and protection of the environment starts with personal responsibility. 
It’s about standing up for what you believe in against a backdrop that gives you the power with the constituent duty and obligation.   
Best Practice – Famous Brands (JSE:FBR)
Famous Brands CEO, Kevin Hedderwick calls it straight.  After checking out the background to the enquiry he acknowledged the Shell relationship as an approved supplier and an alliance partner.
“In summary our association with Shell is one whereby we provide to their dealers by way of a franchise agreement, signed directly with the dealers, to provide to their forecourt customers a food service solution.”
“By implication then we are an approved supplier and an alliance partner to the Shell group regarding this type of solution.”
Famous Brands …Steers’ “Whacky Wednesday”, Wimpy breakfasts, coffee at Mugg & Bean …have a “total of 93 franchised outlets spread across four of our brands on Shell forecourts.”
Hedderwick plays an open hand.  He copied Shell’s Klaas Mantel on his response.
Salt of the Earth
Coming in at #2 is Karoo agribusiness BKB.  MD, Wolf Edmayr, unused to investigative attention was a little taken aback but recovered to take second place. 
For BKB this is troubling as it has had a long relationship with Shell and income is largely derived from Karoo farmers via livestock auctions and farm sales.BKB is prominently represented in the Karoo.
Edmayr and his team are “very aware of the proposed actions of Shell”. 
“Shell is one of BKB’s suppliers they are not the sole supplier”.  They do however own a large number of the fuel pumps located at BKB trading branches. 
Edmayr concludes:  “The matter is extremely important and is receiving urgent attention by the Board and Executive of BKB Limited.  We at BKB will get all the necessary information (in addition to what we already have) to enable us to formulate appropriate responses.”
BKB’s supply contract with Shell is on a month-to-month basis.  Moneyweb first made contact on March 21, and follow up correspondence on what BKB plans to do has been placed on hold as Edmayr is “on leave”.
Sanlam surprises (JSE:SLM)
Perhaps the most surprising response was received from conservatively viewed Sanlam. 
Sanlam communications team is vast with no less than four different names entering into correspondence, but Sanlam told the truth even though it was necessary to nudge it out.  It said it had no “direct” link to Shell, and when asked, it confirmed that it had an “indirect” link. 
The financial services giant has been approached to answer to whether this is Thebe.  There is a holding mail asking for some time.
Bad practice to beyond practice
Standard Bank Group (JSE:SBK) with its Chinese link and its push into Africa is the most notable newcomer to this category. 
The bank answered the enquiry in an autocratic fashion which broached no debate and were it not for an almost imperceptible slip contained in internal information the matter may have come to rest: 
I have copied the relevant relationship team for Shell.  Do we have to answer to this request and if so I would assume this will have to go through your office?”  [emphasis added].
Insider tip-offs and many hours of research unearthed links via Stanlib and Fidelity to Royal Dutch Shell; unlisted RDS Deepwater; and a recent press release which although it doesn’t mention Shell it speaks volumes:  SBSA-Presser-February2011
Eventually Stanbic, Stanlib and SBSA merged into a blur, not that it matters when the dead give-away was in the internal mail.
No response from Old Mutual; and zero acknowledgment from Thebe.  The latter’s most informative website scuttling with proverbs like: “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him” Abraham Lincoln
The internet as a revolutionary tool
Lewis Pugh’s stirring statement has made its mark on South Africans and beyond.  Herein is the power of the information age.
In just one of the hundreds of copies of Pugh’s indictment against Shell that has been sent this way there were 716 addresses in four days.  Its point of solidarity was the sedate Midlands of Natal.     
In the US Dr Stanley R Scobie (comments) has added his voice in support of the Great Karoo; from out of Canada, Graham Hutchinson, has added the Karoo story under "World Protests".
Corporate strategies of the past don’t work when information dissemination is accelerated and access to information is just a Google enquiry away.  
Within hours of Pugh’s speech the People of this country, the Rainbow Nation, started to feel the heat pumping in their veins.  Pugh has lit a fire.
“…and I have no doubt that in the end Good will triumph over evil” Lewis Pugh
**Geraldine Bennett, a former high profile television anchor and energy sector executive, keeps an eye on environmental issues for Moneyweb. She can be reached via
Disclaimer: Part of Bennett’s fuel is being sponsored by Craig Elstob; accommodation by Peet & Hannah van Heerden; Roland & Lizelle du Toit, and Dr Peter Baker.  The TKAG (Treasure the Karoo Action Group) donated R1 000 towards her costs of covering this series.

More reasons why a moratorium is in order

 Gas Exploration: More reasons why a moratorium is in order     
  13 April 2011     
  Release: immediate     
  For a whole host of reasons the Democratic Alliance (DA) has been calling for a moratorium on the granting of gas exploration rights. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the process used to test whether shale gas will flow, is not regulated by any policy in South Africa, and the legal processes that govern the awarding of rights have serious unintended consequences for land use management and spatial planning. It has emerged that, compared to coal, shale gas is at least as bad if not worse as a source of climate change in terms of inducing green house gas emissions. An academic paper by Cornel University professor, Robert Howarth, which is about to be published in the journal, Climatic Change, seriously challenges the view of many applicants for gas exploration rights that the exploitation of shale gas can be used as part of South Africa’s transition to a low carbon economy.

 Today, I will write to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs alerting her to this study, and asking her to engage with the Minister of Mineral Resources on this matter. It is the Minister of Mineral Resources who ultimately signs off on gas explorations, after receiving recommendations from Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA). But it is the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs who is the custodian of efforts to mitigate climate change.

 Upon submission of the Environmental Management Plans, PASA is expected to consult with various government department and agencies. The Department of Environmental Affairs has to date remained quiet on the matter of gas exploration applications. In reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs stated that, with regards to the impacts on water, more research on fracking is necessary. When asked by the DA whether she would meet with the Minister of Mineral Resources on the matter of fracking, she sadly stated that it was not necessary at this stage.

 But the case against fracking in South Africa has developed substantially over the last two months. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and both the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Water cannot sit back and simply allow the law as it relates to the granting of gas exploration rights to take its course. There are simply too many uncertainties. The environmental concerns are real and the opposition to fracking by South Africans is substantial.

 While the results of the study by Professor Howarth are not uncontested, they do indicate that there are concerns about the levels of greenhouse gases emitted from shale gas. Not only is CO2 released when shale is burnt but methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, can leak during the drilling process.

 South Africa makes much of its commitment to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the future. It has made commitments following the Copenhagen Accord to deviate its emissions from the business-as-usual scenario after 2020. It will be hard enough to complete the deviation considering our growing use of coal. Exploiting shale gas in addition to coal will make it harder. We cannot ignore new research and we need time to engage with its findings.

 The DA once again calls on the Minister of Mineral Resources to institute a moratorium on granting gas exploration rights. And we believe it is time that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs joins this call.
  Media Enquiries:

Gareth Morgan MP
 Shadow Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
 072 528 3910
 Kelly Miller
 DA Media Officer
 072 226 9759
  Gareth Morgan MP is the DA's Shadow Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs. He worked as a high school teacher in KwaZulu Natal before attending Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics and also completed a Masters Degree in Environmental Change. He was first elected to Parliament in 2004.