Big law firm wants shale, CSG restrictions eased

RELATED: Lakes Oil upbeat on gas

LAWYERS from Corrs Chambers Westgarth have said if current moratoriums and red tape around hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, are not reassessed, Victoria and NSW will lose the chance to compete in a competitive unconventional gas market, which could also help address the issue of long term energy supply.

Partner Jeremy King said at a state level, lost opportunity would be in the context of jobs, state revenue and energy security.

“The need for Victoria and New South Wales governments to review restrictions on the development of a local unconventional gas industry is vital, particularly given these states already rely on imported energy to sustain their demand,” Mr King said.

He noted Victoria and NSW were disproportionately disadvantaged in terms of exploration regulation compared to other regions – for example, Queensland, where natural gas in the form of CSG provides 90 per cent of the state’s gas needs.

“Energy security is a major issue for both the community and business and any uncertainty in supply and cost will deter future investment in these states,” Mr King said.

“Additionally, as prices for traditional commodities like iron ore, gold and copper soften, there is growing opportunity to compete globally in unconventional gas. Victoria and NSW would be well placed to service this industry and realise a major economic opportunity as well as strong benefits in employment and infrastructure.”

He said easing regulation around exploration did not mean increasing environmental risks.

“Any reassessment of moratoriums and restrictions would need to occur in the context of concerns around public safety, health and protection of water supplied for consumption and irrigation. Best practice operations in other states and countries, including the US, have shown fracking can be undertaken responsibly and safely,” Mr King said.

“Stakeholders in Victoria and New South Wales must move beyond the rhetoric and have an informed debate about unconventional gas development, or risk closing the door on future opportunity.”