While most West Australians have come to terms that their Government is running a second inquiry into hydraulic fracturing – all at the taxpayers’ expense mind you – we were surprised to see that many of the issues and concerns raised in the Government’s Issues Paper have already been detailed in several previous scientific reports and inquiries.
The Issues Paper notes that: “it would be inefficient for this Inquiry not to build on the evidence base accumulated by the 2015 WA Parliamentary Report”, yet pins its justification for continuing the Inquiry as “Recommendation 14 of that report, however, notes that “there is a need for an informed debate on hydraulic fracturing and further scientific study in some areas.” The present Background and issues paper 3 inquiry is an opportunity to have an independent, scientific examination of evidence, together with any fresh information and perspectives arising since submissions were made in 2013/14.”
The previous Inquiry took more than two and a half years to release its findings which broadly supported the existing regulatory framework in place for the onshore oil and gas industry in Western Australia and effectively endorsed the continued use of hydraulic fracturing.
It was a detailed and carefully considered piece of work – yet here we find ourselves again.
In the two years since those findings were released however, there has been no significant change within industry that would argue against the many other reports and inquiries which support its development – suggesting it is highly likely the inquiry will find the same set of evidence in favour of industry.
One key difference in the mix this time in the appointment of scientists instead of politicians to fill the panel.
While we would normally encourage the use of a scientific fact-finding mission, we don’t believe that this panel will be presented with any differing information as the last. The facts have largely stayed the same.
Western Australia has a robust set of legislation in place that is able to manage the development of an onshore oil and gas industry – including the use of hydraulic fracturing. Which, by the way, has been safely utilised in the State for several years.
This inquiry feels more like an attempt to appease local activist groups who are intent on besmirching an industry that operates safely in the State, the country and globally, providing energy, economic benefits, royalties and employment opportunities.
And yes, we appreciate the desire to switch to a future where renewables are a greater part of the energy mix, but as we have said before – if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, we still require a reliable source of energy to power our lives.
But instead of developing the resource, we have taken our foot off the gas, we listen to a campaign run by anti-gas activist groups with zero scientific credibility or evidence rather than the overwhelming expertise of oil and gas experts who continue to mount a strong defence for industry.
Time and time again, we throw money at politically expedient inquiries that will likely reach the same conclusions are those before; that properly regulated, an onshore oil and gas industry that employs the use of hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, can coexist with agriculture and other industries and will provide a number of economic benefits.