Vic gas moratorium hangs in the balance

Inquiry calls on Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio to give evidence.

Inquiry calls on Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio to give evidence.

A Victorian parliamentary committee has refrained from rejecting a proposal from the Victorian Farmer’s Federation (VFF) to extend the moratorium on onshore unconventional gas exploration and production.

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Onshore Unconventional Gas published its interim report this week, noting an unprecedented 1700 submissions from interested stakeholders.

The committee, headed by Liberal party shadow minister for planning, local government and equality, David Davis, refrained from making any recommendations on unconventional gas development in Victoria before submitting a full review of the evidence later this year.

However it did note the VFF’s call for an extension to the ban.

“The Committee notes the concerns of the Victorian Farmers Federation and will reflect on the VFF’s calls for the moratorium on unconventional gas development to be extended, and for landholders to be given the right to veto unconventional gas activity on their land,” the report said.

The committee called on Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio to give evidence at the inquiry.

Citing overwhelming evidence both for and against unconventional gas exploration and development in Victoria, the report stated that additional research on the prospectivity of commercial sources of unconventional gas in Victoria, potential risks and the current legislative and regulatory framework is necessary before any final determination.

“The Committee will consider the scientific data gathered in the water studies of the Gippsland and Otway Basins that have recently been released by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. The Committee will appraise the differing evidence it has received regarding the effect an unconventional gas industry in Victoria could have on the price of gas in this state.”

The interim report finally stated that it will seek further information from Queensland, New South Wales on the impact on agriculture and rural communities, evidence of co-existence, health impacts, the question of reputational risk, and the regulatory regimes of other jurisdictions.

“The Committee’s ability to progress this Inquiry has been dependent on the resources available to it. It has recently received approval to engage scientific expertise and this will assist it in doing justice to the significance of this issue for Victoria.”

The interim report came days after submissions from CSR and the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA).

CSR noted that from 2015 onwards, gas prices for Australian businesses will more than double, “and there may be critical gas shortages and outages of 10 or more days.”

The company stressed that developing an active gas market on the east coast on the back of resource development will strongly influence investor confidence in Victoria’s manufacturing industry.

PACIA called on the Victorian Government to commission an investigation into responsible and reliable supply of gas and its value-adding capabilities.

Chairman of Lakes Oil, Robert Annells said he was sceptical over whether the parliamentary committee would eventually resolve to extend the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and production.

“Onshore gas is significantly cheaper that offshore.” he said.

“And the inquiry is finally getting to the serious papers now, with CSR and PACIA flagging the reality that real jobs are at stake if the gas industry is not allowed to be developed.

“This is serious stuff, and maybe now the committee will start to address those issues.”

Mr Annells said he expects more public comment from the gas industry to dispel misinformation on unconventional onshore gas now that environmental and community groups have made submissions to the committee.

The parliamentary committee’s final report on unconventional onshore gas in Victoria is due December 1.

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