THE state government is taking a constructive approach to concerns raised about the coal seam gas industry, according to Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan.
But Greens candidate for Gippsland South Ian Onley has accused Mr Ryan of taking a “weak” approach to coal seam gas, saying existing legislation is not robust enough to protect water resources in the face of the petroleum industry.
“Why hasn’t legislation been passed during the moratorium to protect aquifers from contamination from unconventional gas extraction?” Mr Onley said.
“Speeches made in parliament amount to hollow rhetoric if they are not backed up by legislation.”
Mr Onley said evidence from Queensland, New South Wales and around the world showed leakage was significant and called for the coal seam gas industry to be banned outright.
“As some background to this, industry figures say that six per cent of unconventional gas wells fail in the first 12 months,” he said.
“Progressively, all fail due to seismic shifts.
“Contamination of aquifers from toxins in the methane gas beds and introduced chemicals is unavoidable, and methane leakage to atmosphere is inevitable.
“Given that methane is considerably more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the overall impact of onshore gas wells will be just as disastrous as coal.
“In fact, a study published this year in the journal Nature shows that exploitation of onshore gas is likely to increase climate forcings,” Mr Onley said.
“This is consistent with the International Energy Agency which stated in 2012 that if unconventional gas were fully exploited it would mean global warming will increase to at least 3.5 degrees Celsius, well past the comparative safety and current target of two degrees Celsius.”
However Mr Ryan said the state government was taking a constructive approach.
“We have the moratorium in place to at least the middle of next year,” he said.
“We have an extensive study being undertaken to our ground water reserves, and we will have the results of that in the first half of next year.
“We will have regard to all the issues pertinent to this somewhat vexed question.
“We will assemble all of that and make appropriate decisions as next year rolls on, or if it takes a bit longer, we will take that time too.”
Mr Ryan said major consumers of gas were concerned they could not get gas contracts.
“Mr Onley I’m sure is equally concerned about the fact some of our major consumers of gas, our manufacturing sector in particular, are now very concerned about the fact they cannot get gas contracts starting into 2017-18,” he said.
“I would be very interested in what Mr Onley has to say about that pressing issue.”