State enquiry into the issue of fracking

Straight after the Victorian state election, Minister for Energy, Resources and Industry Lily D’Ambrosio promised that the issue of social licence would be considered. But that is definitely not visible in the terms of reference for the enquiry, which the Victorian government published a couple of weeks ago.

Climate and anti-fracking groups stated outright that, “It looks like Lily has already been rolled – or succumbed – to the intense lobbying of the fossil fuel industry.”

Jane Morton from Victoria Climate Action Network has gone through the terms of reference text and highlighted the bits that seem to be put in for the community gas-resistance movement in green, and the bits that seem to be put in for the fossil fuel industry in yellow:

Firstly, here is what Lily D’Ambrosio said after the election:

“Labor is committed to the full moratorium on CSG, which will continue until a fully independent parliamentary inquiry has heard from the experts, reviewed the scientific evidence and consulted fully with the community,” Ms D’Ambrosio said. “It will remain in place until the science shows that it is safe and there is broad community support.”


“We are currently finalising terms of reference for the parliamentary inquiry which will be announced imminently,” Ms D’Ambrosio said in an email.

She said the government was also looking more broadly into the future of energy, “working with the industry and communities to explore future approaches to developing Victoria’s resources”, the statement said.

Earlier, the top Victorian public servant for the industry said the state’s blanket ban on onshore gas may not be lifted at the end of the yet-to-be-formed parliamentary inquiry.

Kylie White, deputy secretary for energy and resources, told a What about gas? event in Melbourne the moratorium continues until that inquiry is completed but that “doesn’t necessarily mean that at the end of the inquiry the moratorium is lifted.”

She said the inquiry would cover research, science and community views and the “social and regulatory arrangements of the industry.” The government would assess the report of the inquiry and “then some decisions will be made.”

Here is the ALP policy which they took to the election:

Labor recognises that the interests of the mining industry, the agricultural sector and the environment in the regulation of mineral exploration and mining and extractive industry operations must be equitably balanced.

Labor will:

• Introduce a comprehensive strategic land use framework that protects land which sustains sensitive rural and environmental land uses

• Require production of an environmental impact statement, based on clear legislative criteria, as a prerequisite for obtaining a licence for extraction, mining or major exploration

Maintain the ability for the Minister to exempt certain areas from exploration and/or mining licences

Maintain a ban on hydraulic fracturing during and prior to establishing a Parliamentary Inquiry into this and other mining processes and issues relating to unconventional gas exploration and mining

These are the enquiry terms of reference:

  1. the prospectivity of Victoria’s geology for commercial sources of onshore unconventional gas;
  1. the environmental, land productivity and public health risks, risk mitigations and residual risks of onshore unconventional gas activities;
  1. the coexistence of onshore unconventional gas activities with existing land and water uses, including —

(a)  agricultural production and domestic and export market requirements;

(b)  the legal rights of property owners and the impact on property values; and

(c)  any implications for local and regional development, investment and jobs;

4.      the ability of potential onshore unconventional gas resources contributing to the State’s overall energy sources including — (a) an ability to provide a competitive source of energy and non energy inputs for Victorian industries;

(b)  an affordable energy source for domestic consumers; and

(c)  carbon dioxide emissions from these sources;

  1. the resource knowledge requirements and policy and regulatory safeguards that would be necessary to enable exploration and development of onshore unconventional gas resources, including —

(a)  further scientific work to inform the effective regulation of an onshore unconventional gas industry, including the role of industry and government, particularly in relation to rigorous monitoring and enforcement, and the effectiveness of impact mitigation responses; and

(b)  performance standards for managing environmental and health risks, including water quality, air quality, chemical use, waste disposal, land contamination and geotechnical stability;

  1. relevant domestic and international reviews and inquiries covering the management of risks for similar industries including, but not limited to, the Victorian Auditor-General Office’s report Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts and other reports generated by the Victorian community and stakeholder engagement programs.


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Inquiry amendments voted down by one vote

On 26 May 2015, the Greens amendments on the unconventional gas inquiry were voted down in the Victorian Parliament. The amendments were to include:
1. Looking into the benefits of a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria
2. Looking into capacity of regulators to actually deal with this industry
3. Looking into costs of any clean up/spill/leak etc
4. Extend the dates by 3 months. They were initially brought forward and many people felt the timeline was too short for it to be meaningful

The Greens negotiated these amendments with Labor to get their support. Unfortunately these amendments lost by 1 vote. James Purcell and Labor voted for the amendments but the Liberals, Nationals, Sex Party, DLP and Shooters voted against.

Ellen Sandell, State Greens MP for Melbourne, wrote:
“We’ll be putting out some messages on social media about how we’re disappointed in the Nationals selling our rural communities, feel free to do the same or re-tweet or share our Facebook messages, which will be on my Facebook page.
The inquiry may begin tonight with the first committee sitting. We’ll keep you all informed on how local groups can be involved – we’ll need a big push from locals and experts to make sure the inquiry hears loud voices in favour of a ban. There’s still hope even though this is a small setback”

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Victorian Government Inquiry into Unconventional Gas

Friends of the Earth Melbourne wrote in an email:

“What we know

The state government’s promised Inquiry into Unconventional Gas has now been formally announced, with broad terms of reference (TOR). The final TOR will be determined by the committee. Significantly, it is a cross party committee (the  Environment and Planning References Committee from the Legislative Council [Upper House]). The Chair is a Liberal (David Davis), and there is one National (Melinda Bath), one Green (Samantha Dunn), three from the ALP (Gayle Tierney, Harriet Shing, Shaun Leane), an additional MP from the Liberals (Richard Dalla-Riva), and one MP from the Shooters Party (Daniel Young).

Work started by the previous government, into water tables and the community consultation process run by the Primary Agency, will be released as part of the inquiry.

The moratorium on CSG exploration will stay in place until the inquiry delivers its findings.

The interim report is due in September and the final report by December. (There is the possibility that the committee will amend this timeline if they are overwhelmed with submissions or information). Parliament will then need to consider the recommendations of the committee and make a final decision about how to proceed. This is likely to happen when parliament resumes after the summer break, in early 2016.

What we want

This is ultimately a political rather than technical issue, with the state government needing to decide on whether to allow the industry to proceed. The committee can recommend this, or recommend a ban or extend the moratorium, but the Andrews government will need to take the final decision.

Our aim is to:
• demonstrate that the UCG industry does not have social license to operate in Victoria,
• build the case to ensure the state government realises an onshore UCG industry will be negative for Victoria in environmental, social and economic terms,
• build the political will for the government to rule out any development of the industry here. We need to make sure this is supported by the other Parties, especially the Coalition, as the ALP does not have control of the Upper House. (…)

Keep in touch via Coal and Gas Free Victoria website and Facebook page. There will be regular updates.”

The above is an excerpt of a letter prepared by Friends of the Earth.

Read more:




» Sign the petition:

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Over the past 4 years, Friends of the Earth have worked with communities across southern Victoria to build a grassroots movement that has stopped the development of the unconventional gas (UCG) industry. Using the coal and gasfield free organising model, we have worked with 75 regional communities to develop local consensus that the community will oppose any new ‘greenfield’ coal or gas development.

Already 61 communities have declared themselves coal or gasfield free, with an average of 95% support.

Working together we made this an issue that mattered in the 2014 state election.

State inquiry underway.

We are now entering a new phase in the campaign, as the state inquiry promised by the ALP gets underway. FoE will be working to build the case for a permanent ban on UCG drilling. The interim report from the Inquiry committee is due on September 1.

We really need people to get active in coming months:

Please write a submission. We have until July 10. There is background information here. We are currently working on our submission and will post a model/ draft submission on the website shortly.

Please come along to the public hearings. We will post details on our website as they are announced.

Please sign our petition. We need to build the case that the UCG industry does not have community license to get established. One way you can do this is to send a clear message to the state government by signing our petition calling for an outright ban. This will be delivered to the Premier in September.

Please support our work. The next 6 months present us with our best chance ever of stopping the destructive UCG industry from getting established in our state. FoE is doing valuable work on a minimal budget, and we are getting results.

Imagine what we could do with a little more cash. If you can, please support our work with a tax deductible donation.

And please put this one in your diary: we will be organising a major community rally on sunday September 20 in Melbourne to show the massive community opposition to unconventional gas.

Bringing the campaign to the city

When we started the campaign against UCG in Victoria, we had a state government that didn’t care what urban environmentalists thought. So we re-focused our work onto regional Victoria. The results of this are plain to see in the moratorium on fracking and drilling approvals and the state inquiry.

To finish this campaign we must also re-focus on the city. We are looking for a small team of volunteers to work on a series of campaigns which aim to apply pressure to key MPs across Melbourne and regional centres.

Each mini-campaign will be targeted around that seat, but is likely to include community polling, local media and stunts, and MP visits. If you’d like to be involved, or would like further information, please email Cam.

Thanks for your efforts and support. Together we can stop this industry (and then there’s coal ….)

PS: you are probably aware that extremist elements in the federal government are currently trying to take our tax status off us. Given that more than 90% of our income is from tax deductible donations and grant funding, such a move will be absolutely disastrous for us.

We need your support like never before. Please donate today.