American Energy fracked gas ‘land grab’ lawsuit under spotlight

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                    2 MARCH 2016

American Energy fracked gas ‘land grab’ lawsuit under spotlight

American Energy Partners (AEP) and Armour Energy look set to be the next dominos to fall in the Northern Territory’s scramble to acquire, and now exit, fracked gas acreage.

In January AEP, run by US shale gas billionaire Aubrey McClendon, won a high stakes competitive $130 million farm in venture to develop Armour Energy’s more than 22 million acres of shale gas acreage in the Gulf Country. The deal would have provided cash-strapped Armour with $21 million towards its 2016 drilling program in the Gulf.

But Gulf region Traditional Owners say they hope the continuing low gas price and now a series of lawsuits will put an end to the companies’ contested foray into shale gas fracking in the region.

Gadrian Hoosan, a spokesperson for the Garawa Land Trust says Aboriginal landowners have adamantly rejected AEP’s gas acquisitions in the pastoral and fishing tourism region, which the company’s business papers label a ‘land grab’ strategy of aggressively acquiring expanses of cheap gas fields and locking out competition. They joined with Gulf region pastoral owners late last year in calling on the NT Government to revoke the gas licences saying the company has not consulted with local landowners over shale gas fracking plans or land access.

“NT law is extremely weak and does not afford landholders the right to say no to these companies coming and using ‘land grab’ tactics to take Aboriginal and prime pastoral land and our shared water for their risky fracking operations. “

Lawsuits have dogged AEP’s McClendon for non-payment of royalties and water contamination incidents in US gasfield communities.

Right now the company is in the Supreme Court in Queensland as it attempts to break the farm in arrangement and escape its slated $130 million investment in Gulf region exploration.

In the same week charges have been brought against McClendon and AEP for conspiring to rig bids to deny landowners competitive bids for oil and gas leases AEP sought to acquire in the US. The US Justice Department confirmed McClendon’s indictment was the first case in an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anti-competitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.

“Shale gas fracking is no good for our water, our environment and our people’s health. The dodgy past and present dealings of AEP head McClendon makes it clear he is not a fit and proper person to hold a mining lease in the Territory. We want companies like Armour Energy and American Energy Partners to get out of the Gulf region before they end up with another court case on their hands. We never gave them permission to be here, and we want them to pack up, take their frack rigs and bugger off” concluded Hoosan.

The US indictment and Supreme Court case comes at a time when unconventional gas companies are under significant pressure with a continuing depressed market forcing both marginal and large gas players to sell up, cut losses and move on from the NT’s high cost and low return shale gas fracking sector.

Media opportunity: Wyoming rancher John Fenton, whose property is situated in a gasfield part-operated by McClendon’s former shale gas drilling company Chesapeake and now has water trucked in due to fracking contamination, will visit the Northern Territory to warn pastoralists and landowners to use every possible option to lock out shale gas fracking companies.

Fenton will join NT residents in leading the Our Land is Our Life march against fracking in Katherine on Saturday April 16 and is available for interviews during that time.

For comment or context contact:

Gadrian Hoosan, Garawa Traditional Owner, 0417 262 730

Lauren Mellor, Territory Frack Free Alliance, 0413 534 125

*Copy of joint landholder letter to NT Government attached.