The Victorian Parliament has announced an extension to the moratorium on coal seam gas exploration, pending a new inquiry into the impact of the industry.
Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the 2013 inquiry which led to the Reith Report, which recommended the moratorium should be lifted, had locked out community members and “didn’t interrogate the science”.
“The previous government’s inquiry was a secret inquiry, with too much anxiety raised within the community,” she said.
“Our process will be about getting confidence back into the way government operates and we will ensure that we have this inquiry done in a timely fashion that is robust and thorough,” she said.
“We want to get to the bottom of people's anxieties, and we want to make sure that the path forward on this matter is clear and is guided by the science.”
The Minerals Council of Australia released a statement that it looked forward to the release of the terms of reference, and its participation in the review process.
“The industry encourages an objective and timely inquiry process and report within a reasonable period to ensure that it does not become a de facto and indefinite extension of the moratorium,” MCA said.
“In addition, the industry suggests that the inquiry takes into consideration sound science-based research and that the recommendations are properly balanced against the legitimate interests of the people of Victoria, the economy, local and regional communities, landowners and the environment.”
The ban on issuing new licences and permits for fracking in Victoria began in August 2012, and will run to mid-2016, according to AFR.
The existing moratorium on hydraulic fracturing was already set to remain in place until July 2015.
The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) CEO for Eastern Australia Paul Fennelly criticised the further delays to CSG exploration, and said the restrictive legislation did not represent the immediate action called for by the 2013 Victorian Gas Market Taskforce inquiry led by Peter Reith.
“The decision raises serious questions about whether Victoria is a state that truly welcomes investment in developing onshore gas supplies, regional economic growth, job creation and additional farming income that comes with it,” he said.
“APPEA is urging the Victorian Government to immediately lift a ban on natural gas exploration to at least determine what resources are potentially available to Victorian manufacturers, businesses and households.”
The Reith Report was released in November 2013, and recommended removing holds on issuing new exploration licenses subject to a package of reforms including leading practice regulation and community engagement, and development of a comprehensive water science and licensing program.