The Victorian Government has introduced two new Bills which will lift the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and production, and ban fracking for good.
The first Bill will enshrine the historic ban on fracking and coal seam gas exploration in the Victorian Constitution.
Fracking was banned in 2017 and at the 2018 election, Labor promised to put that ban in the Constitution – to make it harder for future Liberal and National governments to put our food and fibre sector at risk.
The second piece of legislation will allow for an orderly restart of onshore conventional gas exploration and development from 1 July 2021.
The decision follows three years of detailed investigation by the Victorian Gas Program, which found an onshore conventional gas industry would not compromise the state’s environmental and agricultural credentials.
The investigation was overseen by Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, who chaired an independent Stakeholder Advisory Panel including farmers, environmentalists, industry representatives and local councils.
These studies have identified potentially significant onshore conventional gas resources particularly in the Otway Basin, which stretches across the border to South Australia where a productive industry has been established.
Minister for Resources Jaclyn Symes said “three years of research shows securing local gas supply for Victorians will not come at the cost of the state’s groundwater supplies, agricultural industries or our farming’s clean and green reputation”.
Production of Victoria’s estimated resources could generate more than $310 million annually for regional economies and create 6,400 jobs over the lifespan of these projects.
The approach is set to bolster Victoria’s energy security, with any gas produced from future onshore production licences to be prioritised for the domestic market – supporting local industry and consumers.
The Government will now work with industry and communities to develop rigorous engagement and transparency obligations, and improve the regulatory framework – to guarantee a world’s best practice approach. Landholders will also be supported to better negotiate access rights and compensation with exploration companies.
The moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration and development was set to expire on 30 June this year.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said it is an important step forward for an industry that has the potential to be a major economic contributor to Victoria and Australia once the ban is lifted from mid-2021.
“Not only will the decision help boost domestic gas supplies, it will generate million on royalties for Victoria.”
However, Minister Pitt said he was disappointed Victoria didn’t take the opportunity to reverse its ban on unconventional gas exploration.
“Victoria has potentially enormous shale and tight gas resources that could generate billions in revenue and create thousands of locals jobs,” Minister Pitt said.
Meanwhile, Environment Victoria says allowing onshore gas exploration in Victoria is a dangerous step backwards in addressing climate risk, with any new gas projects serving only to lock in the burning of more polluting fossil fuels.
“Gas exploration and new gas projects would lock in the burning of fossil fuels in Victoria for the next 20 or 30 years,” said CEO Jono La Nauze.
Mr Nauze said lifting the ban will increase greenhouse gas emissions and would like to hear the Premier start talking about how quickly the state can shift to cleaner energy.
“If the government is concerned about tight gas supplies, where is their plan to reduce gas demand? Their focus on just adding new supplies turns a blind eye to both the climate crisis we are in and the new clean technologies that are making gas obsolete.”