THE State Government has announced tough new reforms to further safeguard the interests of communities, the environment and food production in the exploration for coal seam gas.
Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said alternative sources of natural gas presented potential economic benefits and new jobs for Gippsland communities, however the government would not allow new industries to threaten local livability, the environment or food production.
The reforms which come into effect immediately are:
· a hold on the issuing of all new exploration licenses for coal seam gas until the upcoming national framework proposals have been considered;
· a hold on all approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing (‘fraccing’) as part of onshore gas exploration and;
· a ban on the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) in any mineral exploration activities in Victoria.
The government will also:
· seek to strengthen resource policy and legislation to ensure better consideration of mixed land use issues during the application process for coal seam gas exploration activity; and
· use impact statements at the exploration stage in circumstances where there will be a significant material impact on the environment, to better manage mixed land use issues for all minerals exploration, including brown coal and coal seam gas. This power currently exists under section 41A of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.
“Impact statements and more work on policy and legislation will further safeguard areas of agricultural significance and address mixed land use issues in food production regions such as Gippsland,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said these new reforms would be reviewed once ongoing work by the states and Commonwealth on a national framework for coal seam gas was completed.
“By shielding communities and the environment from potential negative affects Victoria can open the way for opportunities to provide long term supply of cheap energy, create new local jobs and deliver more economic activity for local communities,” Mr Ryan said.
“The community doesn’t want new sources of gas and energy at any price. That’s why the Government will ensure that any future development of Victoria’s resources is carried out in a responsible and sustainable manner.”
Eastern Victoria MLC Matt Viney has welcomed the move, but said it didn’t actually address the concerns of the community.
Mr Viney said Labor earlier this year moved a motion in parliament to establish a parliamentary inquiry which would have a government majority and could call expert witnesses and company representatives under oath.
“But local Liberal and National Party MPs voted against it,” he said.
“Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan’s Gippsland colleagues Peter Hall and Phillip Davis voted against having a 12-month moratorium on exploration and an inquiry into coal seam gas.”
Mr Viney called on the Deputy Premier to listen to the community and support Labor’s motion to set up an inquiry.