Onshore gas ban decision needs to be based on facts, not fear

August 17th, 2016

The Victorian Government is edging closer to a decision on whether or not to extend the State’s moratorium on the exploration and extraction of onshore natural gas.

In the lead up to the Government’s decision activist groups have ramped up their campaigning, pushing their reasoning why the ban should remain, and even trotting out some questionable polling to try and back their case.

It’s a shame though that their justification relies on the same misinformation and scare-tactics that we’ve seen time and time again.

In a release from the Victorian Farmer’s Federation it states: “No-one knows the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining, so it would be crazy to lift the moratorium until there’s scientific evidence that the risks can be managed.”

While Friends of the Earth Melbourne said in a statement: “Victorians believe onshore gas is too risky to proceed with.”

In fact, the risks associated with the exploration and production of onshore natural gas resources are very well understood and regulated by each state’s governing body – many of which have found the risks, when properly managed, to be negligible.

As we’ve said previously, if the Victorian Government decides to extend the moratorium preventing onshore natural gas development, it will be doing so against the evidence provided by its own experts.

In 2014 the NSW Chief Scientist conducted a thorough investigation of gas extraction in Australia and overseas.

Her conclusion was that extraction and production was ‘low risk’ and that risks could be managed with appropriate regulation.

In late 2015, following more than two and a half years of investigation, the Western Australian Parliament Environment and Public Affairs Committee released a report which broadly supports the existing regulatory framework in place for the onshore oil and gas industry in Western Australia and effectively endorses the continued use of hydraulic fracturing.

Importantly, there was no support for a moratorium from the committee and ultimately the report’s recommendations accept that hydraulic fracturing can be conducted safely provided appropriate regulations are in place and minimum standards are implemented.

The Victorian Government need only look to its neighbours to recognise that onshore natural gas resources can be developed safely while providing a number of economic benefits for its constituents.

In Queensland, the development of natural gas has transformed the state’s economy – the statistics speak for themselves:

  • Every tanker cargo from these LNG projects is forecast to generate more than $3.8 million in Queensland royalties and federal petroleum resource rent tax, as well as $4.9 million in company tax.1
  • The Queensland gas industry will provide $561 million in state royalties next financial year as well as many millions in state payroll tax. It will also pay millions in Commonwealth taxes, including income tax and GST.1
  • At its peak, the Queensland gas industry has created more than 40,000 jobs, and it currently employs about 30,000 people. This total includes direct employees and contractor jobs. The multiplier effect across the state economy is much larger.1

APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts added the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry into the conversation, stating that: “The Victorian government has a choice between short-term politics or long-term regional development and energy security.”

“All credible, independent inquiries have confirmed that, properly regulated, the natural gas industry is safe. Political decisions should be based on facts, not dishonest fear campaigns.”

When the Victorian Government makes their decision regarding the future of natural gas development in the state, let’s hope it will be a decision based on the scientific evidence of the country’s leading experts and regulators, rather than the emotional hype of activists hellbent on stopping fossil fuel industries at any cost.

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