Fracking halted

OPPONENTS of fracking have received a reprieve, with the State Government announcing the practice will be banned in Victoria for coal seam gas exploration at least until next year.

By then, according to Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan, the state and Commonwealth governments will have come together and set a national standard on the issue.

Until then, a moratorium has been placed on issuing new licenses for coal seam gas exploration, and a hold placed on all approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, as part of onshore gas exploration.

This includes a ban of the use of BTEX chemicals benzene, tolunene, ethylbenzene and xylene in any mineral exploration in Victoria.

Mr Ryan said of the 14 existing licenses with approved work plans, none included fracking, and he said the 12 others had not been approved because they hadn’t submitted work plans, and would not be approved with respect to fracking.

“We are just going to pause the whole thing while we have a look at a good set of national standards to then determine the way ahead with this,” Mr Ryan said.

“The existing licenses can still go ahead,” said Mr Ryan, “but not where they incorporated fracking”.

A national conference will set up a national framework for the regulation of the coal seam gas industry, including water management and monitoring of well design, and fracking, using what is currently happening in Queensland as a case study.

In the face of a growing local outcry against coal seam gas exploration, Mr Ryan reiterated there was no coal seam gas industry in Victoria at this stage.

He said Victoria had only just touched upon the exploration stage.

“What we are doing is taking the very best opportunity to be able to look at these national standards to make certain, in turn, that if there is gas here . . . whether it can be developed,” he said.

“It will be done on the basis which sets a proper standard for . . . Victoria, and particularly here in the Gippsland basin.

“Impact statements, and more work on policy legislation will further safeguard areas of agricultural significance and address mixed land use issues in food production regions such as Gippsland,” Mr Ryan said.

The government’s announcement of a moratorium on fracking has been welcomed by the local group concerned by coal seam gas exploration.

CSG Wellington Awareness Group spokesperson Dr Jo McCubbin cautiously welcomed the news.

“It is great that they have listened to the concerns of the people,” she said.

“However, the information meeting, planned for next week, is still necessary, and still on.”

CSG Wellington Awareness Group’s information night will be held next Monday, September 3, at Delbridge Hall, Sale from  6pm, the meeting will have four speakers and ample time for questions to the panel.