27/11/2018 - 15:30

Govt to lift WA fracking ban

27/11/2018 - 15:30

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The state government will lift a ban on fracking in prospective areas of Western Australia after an independent inquiry found the petroleum exploration practice to be low risk.

Govt to lift WA fracking ban
Bill Johnston (left) with Mark McGowan and Stephen Dawson. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government will lift a ban on fracking in prospective areas of Western Australia after an independent inquiry found the petroleum exploration practice to be low risk.  

Last year, the government banned fracking in the South West, Peel and Perth regions, and implemented a moratorium for the rest of the state while the inquiry was conducted.

The 12-month investigation, headed by Environmental Protection Authority chair Tom Hatton, made 44 recommendations, including developing a code of practice and disallowing fracking projects within two kilometres of public water sources, towns, settlements and residents.

The report also recommended all hydraulic fracturing projects be assessed by the environmental watchdog.

The government will implement all of the inquiry's recommendations. 

The moratorium will be lifted on existing onshore petroleum titles, including in the Canning Basin, Mid West and Gascoyne regions.

The practice will continue to be banned in Perth, Peel and the South West, along with existing and proposed national parks and the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley.

Under the new regualtions, 

traditional owners and farmers will have the right to disallow fracking on their land.

Royalties from any unconventional onshore oil and gas projects will be used to support new renewable energy projects via a special clean energy fund, with a $9 million seed allocation.

The royalty rate for fracking will also be increased to 10 per cent.

Premier Mark McGowan said there would be strict controls to regulate the industry.

“Banning fracking on existing petroleum titles after the scientific inquiry found the risk from fracking is low, would undermine Western Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business,” he said.

“At the same time, it is crucial that the industry demonstrates that it has the support of landowners who, for the first time, will be able to say yes or no to any fracking production on their land.

“This is a balanced and responsible policy that supports economic opportunity, new jobs, environmental protection and landowner rights.”

Despite its use in Australia for decades to hydraulically stimulate onshore oil and gas wells, fracking has received opposition from activist groups in recent years.

Much of the controversy has been for gas sourced in coal seams, which are generally close to the surface.

In WA, fracking is used in shale formations, which are generally significantly further underground.

Mr Hatton said typically emissions were about 10 per cent higher for fracking compared with conventional oil and gas projects.

Tom Hatton. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA said the ban should have been lifted across the state.

CME chief executive Paul Everingham said that, given the scientific inquiry led by Dr Hatton concluded that the risks from hydraulic fracturing were low and could be managed with good regulation and industry best practice, it made little sense to keep the ban in place.

Mr Everingham said allowing hydraulic fracturing would place downward pressure on electricity and domestic gas prices and help WA households, manufacturing and other industries access affordable energy.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association welcomed the decision.

“The independent scientific inquiry has confirmed that properly regulated, hydraulic fracturing is a safe practice.  Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely in Western Australia since 1958,” APPEA chief executive Malcolm Roberts said.

“The inquiry shows there is no environmental or public health justification for maintaining the moratorium. 

“The inquiry also rejects claims that onshore projects will mean a significant increase in emissions.”

The Wilderness Society said it was disappointed the ban would be lifted.

“Not permitting fracking on 98 per cent of WA territory looks good on paper but this 2 per cent represents an area close to 5.2 million hectares - the approximate size of Tasmania,”  WA state director Kit Sainsbury said.

“Ironically a territory which has a 100 per cent judicial ban on fracking.

“Overall the inquiry has been too narrow in reviewing the full risks of unconventional gas fracking on our communities, health, environment and impacts on climate change which worries us enormously.”

Perth-based Buru Energy said the conclusions of the report mirror previous reports.

“The conclusion of this inquiry should give parties with a genuine interest in the industry confidence that we can continue our operations in a best practice framework and should also provide further confidence to the 80 per cent of Kimberley people who made submissions to the inquiry supporting our activity,” the company said in a statement. 

 

 

 

 

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