Gas moratorium continues

A MORATORIUM on onshore gas exploration in Victoria will continue.

The state government has been considering the findings and recommendations from the parliamentary inquiry into unconventional gas in Victoria, which received more than 1800 submissions.

The government will respond to the inquiry’s recommendations when parliament resumes in August. 

In the meantime, there will be holds on granting new exploration licences for all types of onshore gas (tight, shale, coal seam and conventional gas),  on approvals for hydraulic fracturing and on exploration drilling activities.

There is also a  ban on the use of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) chemicals, which has been enshrined in legislation.

A ban on fracking was introduced by the previous Liberal-National government in 2012, and later extended to all forms of onshore gas extraction and exploration.

State Resources Minister Wade Noonan said more time was needed before a final position was reached.

“I appreciate that there are significant concerns within the Victorian community about unconventional gas exploration and the extraction methods used,” he said.

“As the new Minister for Resources, I take these issues seriously and therefore will take more time to meet with industry, farmers and other community representatives.”

Friends of the Earth campaign co-ordinator Cam Walker said the choice to defer a decision came despite “compelling” evidence that fracking was damaging ground water.

“We understand the need for the minister to be able to defend his decision once he has made it, so appreciate that he needs to take the time to understand community concern about onshore gas,” he said.

“This has been a five-year campaign and every day that farming communities have to live under the threat of gas drilling being approved increases the anxiety and uncertainty they have been living with for years.

“We urge the minister to listen to community concerns, consider the science and rule out any further onshore gas drilling in our state.” 

Greens energy spokesperson Ellen Sandell said the government delaying a decision about onshore gas drilling was “a cop-out”.

“Communities and farmers have already shown deep and widespread opposition to the toxic onshore gas industry,” she said.

“It’s disappointing that the government is delaying its decision.

“This is a cop-out. It leaves communities with more uncertainty, and gives the industry more time to influence the government.”