Audit over generalises gas risks

August 21st, 2015

A puzzling report from the Victorian Auditor General has caught the imagination of industry opponents this week.

In an audit report titled Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts, the following statement is made:

“Victoria is not as well placed as it could be to respond to the risks and impacts that could arise if the moratorium is lifted, allowing unconventional gas activities to proceed. “

The role of the Audit office is to interrogate Government spending initiatives; to reassure taxpayers that their money is being spent efficiently and effectively.

How does this role include expressing an opinion in an industry where the government has no active spending role?

The government has a licensing and regulatory role, but this has been the case for 100 years and it has not previously attracted the interest of the Auditor-General.

In the opening of his report, the Auditor-General acknowledges there are significant information gaps “that need to be filled to understand the likelihood, scale and consequences of the risks” associated with any development.

If more information is needed, how then does the Auditor-General “clearly” conclude the risks are too high?

The NSW Chief Scientist found, after an 18-month study of all the available science and literature, that there is no evidence of human harm or serious environmental damage caused by “unconventional” natural gas extraction.

So the Auditor-General is taking at face value the unsubstantiated claims made by anti-fossil fuel activists and using them to make a qualitative judgment. He is giving weight to the “misinformation” identified by the NSW chief scientist.

And one last point: the industry is not in “its infancy”. It has been operating since the 1940s in North America and the 1960s in Australia.

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