Final report on onshore unconventional gas tabled in Victorian parliament

On 8 December 2015 the Inquiry Committee into Onshore Unconventional Gas tabled its Final Report in the Victorian parliament. This long awaited report will be used by the Labor Government to make a decision about the future of onshore and unconventional gas mining in Victoria.



Friends of the Earth Melbourne wrote:

“The report at no time recommends a lifting of the current moratorium and several additional minority reports recommend the Labor Government support a ban.

Over 70 gasfield free communities across Victoria are calling on the Andrews Government to focus on the recommendation made by Labor MPs Shaun Leane and Harriet Shing, Greens MP Samantha Dunn and Fishers & Shooters MP Daniel Young, who are calling for a permanent ban.

In minority reports, they clearly stated that this industry, if allowed to go ahead threatened the agriculture industry, without any guarantees that water, the environment and communities will be protected.”

» Read more

» Download the Committee’s Final Report.



Here’s Quit Coal‘s summary of the final report.

WHAT’S IN THE FINAL REPORT?

The ALP chose an Upper House committee to run the inquiry, meaning that there were MPs from the ALP, Coalition, Greens and Shooters Party. The subsequent inquiry received more submissions than any environment inquiry in Victoria’s history (more than 1800), and at the public hearings, the committee heard compelling evidence about the dangers posed by this industry.

But the cross-party MPs remain divided on the issue of what to do about the moratorium on unconventional gas. Instead, the committee channeled their inner Tom Cruise and the final report included four minority reports from all but one of the voting MPs.

The Coalition MPs called for a five-year ban. Sadly, their report is party political, focusing more on attacking the government than listening to the community. Basically they recommend extending the moratorium for another 5 years to examine the regulatory systems that exist interstate/overseas to know how to go ahead in Victoria. They seem quite opposed to a permanent ban.

State Labor Government MPs Shaun Leane and Harriet Shing called for a permanent ban on unconventional gas, as did Greens MP Samantha Dunn. Samantha said that, based on the evidence received during the inquiry, UCG posed ‘an unacceptable threat to Victoria’s farmland and communities which cannot be mitigated through regulation.’ The Shooters and Fishers MP, Daniel Young, also supported a permanent ban.

The majority ALP report was actually great: “The Inquiry was presented with overwhelming evidence that Victoria’s regional communities, particularly those in the Otway and Gippsland Basins, have refused to grant any substantive form of “social licence” that might enable onshore unconventional gas exploration or extraction to take place. It is clear that community opposition to any (further) onshore unconventional industry growth or development in Victoria has grown exponentially over time.

“In fact, the evidence indicated that the actual and/or perceived risks of an unconventional gas exploration or extraction are, for an overwhelming majority of communities in regional Victoria, too great to enable exploration or extraction of onshore unconventional gas in the terms proposed by industry”.

They suggest that the funding and resourcing needed to properly manage an UCG industry would be better spent on developing renewable energy.

A fourth report, provided by Government MP Adem Somyurek, called for a three-year moratorium on fracking, but suggested conventional drilling be permitted for onshore gas resources. He wants the government to support drilling for conventional gas immediately. He suggests it is important to “allow conventional non-fracking gas exploration” along with a reservation policy. He wants conventional gas to be taken out of the moratorium. He even quotes the very discredited Peter Reith! Bear in mind that Mr Somyurek only bothered to show up at one of the public hearings!

Our analysis:

Overall, it is very optimistic that unconventional gas will not be allowed to go ahead immediately in Victoria. However, what’s not clear is whether the Victorian state Labor Government will commit to a total ban or just push through a five year extension of the moratorium.

It will be tempting for the Government to put the decision off to be someone else’s problem in five years. But that would make this the community’s problem: a huge burden on every farmer trying to plan their future; a source of continual stress and uncertainty for regional communities; a fight we must continue over half a decade.

So, we must make it clear to the Government: Only a ban will do.

With the Parliamentary Committee reported, the decision is now with Premier Daniel Andrews. For the next two to four months, we must make sure he hears our voices at every opportunity. We can start today.


Below is a copy of an email Alan Manson from Frack Free Grovedale sent to Premier Daniel Andrews:

_____________________________________________________

Hon. Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria

Dear Premier Andrews,

On behalf of our members, I would like to thank you for arranging the Parliamentary Inquiry Into Onshore Unconventional Gas in Victoria that provided many Victorians and the UG industry a forum in which to present the facts about Unconventional Gas (UG) through the report recently tabled in the Victorian Parliament.

We also want to thank you for your tweeted comments sent to Alison Marchant recently, saying:

“We support a moratorium until the science is clear and community support exists…”


Our members have noted in the report, the following statements that relate to your comments:

Minority Report – Harriet Shing MLC (Deputy Chair) and Shaun Leane MLC

“Social Licence: The Inquiry was presented with overwhelming evidence that Victoria’s regional communities, particularly those in the Otway and Gippsland Basins, have refused to grant any substantive form of “social licence” that might enable onshore unconventional gas exploration or extraction to take place. It is clear that community opposition to any (further) onshore unconventional industry growth or development in Victoria has grown exponentially over time.”

“Alternative Energy Resources: On this basis [of massively funding the structure needed to regulate any future UG mining industry], it is our view that funding and resources that might otherwise be unconventional gas would simply delay the making of a further decision about allocated to undertaking this further work are more appropriately directed to the potential for an onshore unconventional gas industry, and enable these investment in the certain, predictable and long-term benefits of renewable energy initiatives, a number of which are already the subject of investments by the Andrews Government.”

As the Liberal / National coalition remain wishy-washy about having an Unconventional Gas industry in Victoria or not; our members would like you to know that we fully endorse all of Harriet Shing and Shaun Leane’s Minority Report comments; and we sincerely hope that you will place a permanent ban on the UG industry in Victoria and then support the development of a renewable energy industry.

As there are many long-established agricultural and tourism industries that would be decimated if a UG industry was permitted into Victoria, your party’s support for a renewable energy industry would be consistent with the recommendations in the report and with the policies of your government.

Our members are looking forward to learning about your government’s decision regarding these matters in the New Year.

Many thanks again Premier Andrews, and kind regards,

Alan Manson
Convenor
Frack Free Grovedale
frackfreegrovedale@gmail.com







Chloe Aldenhoven and Alison Marchan from Western Vic community campaigners wrote:

“It’s been a very busy year, with many of you contributing written submissions to the inquiry, attending hearings or rally’s and community events. It should be noted that your voices have been heard loud and clear.

The final report of the Unconventional gas inquiry will now be used by the Labor Government to make their final decision on Unconventional gas.

In a quick summary, the final report saw several minority reports written and the committee split. Four committee members (Labor MP Shaun Leane, Labor MP Harriet Shing, Greens MP Samantha Dunn and Shooters & Fisher Party MP Daniel Young) called for a ban on Unconventional gas. The other committee members (Liberal MP David Davis, Liberal MP Richard Dall-Riva and Nationals Melina Bath) called for an extension of the current 5 Year moratorium for all onshore gas. The committee also made 15 recommendations IF the industry was allowed to go ahead.

The report although heavily debated in parliament documented all the concerns that communities have had over the past year.Early next year the Labor government will need to make a decision, probably on a whole gas policy for Victoria, encompassing unconventional gas. The government will also need to decide whether to lift the current ban on conventional gas drilling. It is quite likely we will need to deal with this issue, so it would be worthwhile discussing your groups position about onshore conventional gas drilling.

There are a couple of important things you can do now to send make sure our message is heard, that only a total ban on unconventional & onshore gas mining will do.

1. Thank Harriet Shing, Shaun Leane (ALP) and Samantha Dunn (Greens) and Daniel Young (Shooters and Fishers) for their leadership on the issue. Tell them you support a ban and that the community appreciates their leadership.

harriet.shing@parliament.vic.gov.au

shaun.leane@parliament.vic.gov.au

samantha.dunn@parliament.vic.gov.au

daniel.young@parliament.vic.gov.au


2. Tell the Premier you support a permanent ban on ALL onshore gas drilling

daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au

We have made it very clear to the inquiry that communities will never give social licence for this industry as we have have serious concerns with the risks unconventional gas mining poses to our farmland, water, jobs & health of our communities. Across Victoria people like you are protecting their towns from gasfields. This includes conventional gas mining if it threatens our water, air, agriculture, environment, health and cultural heritage.

So once again, we thank you, for all your ongoing support to keep Victoria Gasfield Free.

Regarding Lock the Gate’s position on mining operations, their position is this.

Irresponsible Mining:  They are opposed to all coal and gas mining that is regarded as irresponsible and invasive. So this definitely covers Unconventional Gas.

Conventional Gas Mining:  When it comes to Conventional Gas, Lock the Gate take each project on the case by case basis. For example, one area that is ear marked for Conventional may include ‘unsafe irresponsible’ practices; so therefore, it would not be supported.

Unconventional Gas in Victoria:  As for gasfield free groups here in Vic, we are asking for a total ban on Unconventional Gas. When it comes to Conventional Gas mining we have some concerns; namely:

  1. There is no evidence of Conventional Gas pockets discovered onshore in Victoria; so are companies using this to get their foot in the door? Probably!
  2. The issue of land access and of being taken to VCAT for farmers is still the same.
  3. Regulatory systems are not in place (Auditor Generals report).
  4. If Conventional Gas operations are likely to threaten our water, land, agriculture, air and environment, it would not be supported. It is still the same things we are trying to protect from Unconventional.

We hope you have an enjoyable festive season and a safe New Year. We are very much looking forward (along with your help) to making 2016 the year Victoria officially becomes a gasfield free state.

To stay up to date (over the holidays) with upcoming events and how you can help us keep Victoria gasfield free, check out our website at: www.coalandgasfreevic.org

Kind regards

Chloe Aldenhoven and Alison Marchant

Western Vic community campaigners

frackfreemoriac@gmail.com

Tel 0407 875123 ”



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