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Environment Minister Stephen Dawson speaking to reporters at Parliament House today. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Hatton to chair fracking inquiry

The state government has strengthened its ban on fracking in Perth and the South West, while moving to appoint Environmental Protection Authority chairman Tom Hatton to run a scientific inquiry into the drilling technique.

The government had previously implemented the Perth and South West ban through administrative action, fulfilling an election commitment, with a moratorium on fracking in the rest of the state pending the inquiry.

The Perth and South West ban has now been strengthened to be covered under delegated legislation, which means it is a regulation made by an executive agency under a power granted by past legislation.

In July, Business News reported uncertainty around the government’s final position on fracking had led to lost investment in the onshore oil and gas sector, with a major financial deal falling over for one explorer.

Today, the state government signalled the inquiry would be completed in 12 months, with Environment Minister Stephen Dawson telling reporters at a Parliament House doorstop today that community consultation would take place in Perth, Broome and Geraldton.

"The McGowan government recognises the need to protect the state's environment from risks associated with extracting petroleum products using fracking,” Mr Dawson said.

"We appreciate there is a level of community concern around fracking in WA, which is why we are commissioning an independent scientific inquiry.

"We are delivering our election commitment to conduct a public inquiry into the use of fracking.”

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief operating officer Western Australia, Stedman Ellis, said a previous inquiry by the state’s parliament had already found fracking posed negligible risk.

“The Health Department says fracking can be done without compromising drinking water and Australia’s chief scientist says the evidence shows it’s completely safe,’’ he said.

“This is not a new technology; more than 600 wells have been fracked in WA in the past 55 years with no evidence of environmental harm.“

Mr Ellis estimated more than $380 million worth of investment in onshore oil and gas projects had stalled since the moratorium was imposed.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia’s acting deputy chief executive, Kane Moyle, said the decision would hurt WA’s international reputation as an attractive place to invest.

“There is no environmental, public health or safety justification to ban hydraulic fracturing,” he said.

“This decision threatens the reputation of the resources industry, as well as jobs and economic prosperity across the entire state.”

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