Premier Napthine must resolve uncertainty over coal and gas

September 26, 2013

Friends of the Earth media release

With the Coalition in power federally, there is already increased pressure nation wide to develop new coal and gas projects. Tony Abbott has promised to cut ‘Green tape’ which might hold up mining projects and other developments. And Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has declared that he will ensure that “every molecule of gas that can come out of the ground does so.”

Minister Macfarlane has also indicated he will try to remove barriers to coal seam gas development in NSW. While in opposition Mr Macfarlane supported substantial buffers around residential areas and key rural industries like vineyards.

Approvals for new coal and gas operations are essentially a matter for the States.

In Victoria, community pressure forced the state government to impose a moratorium in August last year on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) – the process by which unconventional gas is released from coal seams or rock.

The government said the ban would stay in place until it had signed the National Harmonised Regulatory Framework on gas, which it did in June this year. “It has not lifted the ban, and it is clear that the deep community opposition to on-shore gas operations, which started in Gippsland and is now jumping to western Victoria, is causing headaches for the Coalition” said Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker. “The government is trying to have it both ways: telling the business sector that the state is ‘open for business’ when it comes to coal and gas, while promising communities a consultation process before deciding anything. With a pro mining Liberal Party in alliance with the country-based Nationals, the government has been unable to find a way out of its current policy impasse”.

It is now awaiting a report on the state’s gas supply which is being compiled by former federal minister Peter Reith and which could be released within weeks.

“No doubt this report will be backed by a media blitz from the gas industry, extolling the need to ‘grow’ Victoria. Yet, a report from a former MP will not remove community concerns. The experience in Queensland, where the industry is much more advanced, has seen a heightening of community resistance rather than an acceptance of this invasive industry”.

“The sooner the government realises that in a densely populated state the industry will not be able to achieve social license to operate the better. The way out of its current mess will be to turn the moratorium into a permanent ban on new coal and gas operations on our farmland”.

“With Energy Minister Nick Kotsiras missing in action, Premier Napthine has two easy ways to intervene: he can extend the moratorium on fracking and include all exploration activity, or use Section 7 of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act to create a permanent ban on any new coal and gas mining operations in key areas in Victoria”.

Cam Walker 0419 338 047