Spring flowers bloom in the semi-desert wilderness of the Karoo where companies want to frack for gas. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg - The government’s final regulations to guide fracking are “flawed, inadequate” and have numerous shortcomings, the Treasure Karoo Action Group says.

The government gazetted the final regulations this week. They are to guide the exploration and production of oil, gas and hydraulic fracturing. Importantly, this means the government can process applications to explore for shale gas.

But the lobby group, in its initial review of the regulations, released on Friday, said they showed “a lack of scientific basis” specific to South African conditions.

“The composition of the regulations allows applicants and operators freedom in the methods, techniques and technologies adopted for environmental management.

“This is a signal of a lack of capacity and ability of government to sufficiently comprehend and address the risks associated with shale gas exploration and production, and impacts on government’s ability to prescribe appropriate standards and regulations.

“There are multiple shortcomings. The generic and vague nature of the wording establishes serious loopholes and further erodes the quality of the regulations. Actions dealing with important aspects such as groundwater monitoring are non-specific and open to interpretation.”

The regulations come weeks after the government’s announcement that a comprehensive two-year strategic environmental assessment on shale gas mining would be undertaken to “provide a definitive, science-based and unimpeachable conclusion on shale gas mining”.

The lobby group said the regulations should be issued at a stage “when the strategic environmental assessment and supporting studies have been concluded”.

Saturday Star