For almost five years, Friends of the Earth (FoE), Lock the Gate and Coal & Gas Free Victoria have been working to stop the development of the unconventional gas (UCG) industry in Victoria. Seeing the disaster that comes with this industry, we were determined to stop it before it got entrenched in our state.
We have just had a very significant day in our campaign against UCG. We helped force the then Coalition government to put a moratorium on UCG drilling in 2012. One of the election commitments of the ALP was to broaden the ban to include all onshore gas drilling and hold a state inquiry into UCG.
Yesterday, the final report from the inquiry was tabled in parliament (our response here). Sadly, the report fell prey to party politics, and there was no unanimous recommendation from the committee. Instead, there were four minority reports. The Coalition preempted the outcome of the inquiry and in mid 2015 announced they support a five year extension of the current moratorium. We were impressed by the fact that the Coalition reps on the committee listened to community concerns about the industry, however they were hamstrung by their party’s position. There is some more detailed analysis of each of the reports available at the end of this message.
The good news is that the Greens and two key ALP MPs combined to recommend a permanent extension on the UCG industry in our state. The representative from the Shooters Party also said he supported a ban.
This is clearly what the community wants and expects from our government. This committee received more than 1,700 submissions, breaking the record for inquiries into environmental issues. The committee heard compelling evidence about the impacts of the industry on land, water, climate and communities. We appreciate the MPs who had the courage to translate that community opinion into a recommendation for a permanent ban.
The state government now has to consider it’s response to the inquiry. It is expected to do so within a broader policy on gas, and this is expected by March next year.
Ultimately this is a call that needs to be taken by the Premier. But we need to convince all of Cabinet that the community wants a permanent ban. Many thanks to the many people who have responded to our emails and phone calls asking you to contact your local MP and express your support for a ban.
There are many things to do:
#1 Thank Harriet Shing, Shaun Leane (ALP) and Samantha Dunn (Greens) for their leadership on the issue. Tell them you support a ban and that the community appreciates their leadership.
#2 Tell the Coalition members that you are disappointed that they only support a five year extension and urge them to do more personally by publicly supporting a permanent ban.
#3 tell the Premier you support a permanent ban on ALL onshore gas drilling (the question of ‘conventional’ gas drilling will be one that the government needs to consider).
Please sign and share our petition.
Or contact him directly:
Final report on uncon gas is out, it’s up to you now @DanielAndrewsMP Permanent ban on onshore drilling.
#4 come to our event at Parliament on February 9.
On the first day of parliament, we will be holding a community rally to call for renewables, not fossil fuels. FoE will launch it’s three year agenda (a plan for what the ALP should do in the three years remaining of their current term of government) and deliver our petition on that day.
#5 please consider financially supporting our work. I don’t know about you, but I hate those emails where the only ask is for money. We need people to be involved, with FoE and Quit Coal, with Lock the Gate, in local communities. We need people to mobilise their networks, write to the media, call their MPs. We need everyone to support the final push for an outright ban on UCG. But we do need to build our resources to get over the line.
We have three amazing campaigners: Ursula Alquier, Chloe Aldenhoven and Alison Merchant, who are the cornerstone of the Victorian push against new coal and gas. We run this whole campaign on a lot less than some green groups spend on their media departments. We have an incredible, dedicated team literally running on an (organic, fair trade) oily rag.
Thanks to everything you have done these last few years we’re on the home run – if we can keep the pressure up, we could see the end of this industry in our state by mid next year.
By Cam Walker
WHAT’S IN THE FINAL REPORT?
The report is available here.
The ALP wisely chose an Upper House committee to run the inquiry, meaning that there were MPs from the ALP, Coalition, Greens and Shooters Party. The subsequent inquiry received more submissions than any environment inquiry in Victoria’s history, and at the public hearings, the committee heard compelling evidence about the dangers posed by this industry.
But the cross-party MPs remain divided on the issue, and have made no key recommendations.
Instead, the final report included four minority reports from all but one of the voting MPs.
The Coalition MPs called for a five-year ban. Sadly, their report focuses is very party political, focusing more on attacking the government than listening to the community. Basically they recommend extending the moratorium for another 5 years to examine the regulatory systems that exist interstate/overseas to know how to go ahead in Victoria. They seem quite opposed to permanent ban.
Government MPs Shaun Leane and Harriet Shing called for a permanent ban on unconventional gas, as did Greens MP Samantha Dunn.
Samantha said that, based on the evidence received during the inquiry, UCG posed ‘an unacceptable threat to Victoria’s farmland and communities which cannot be mitigated through regulation.’
The ALP report was great: “The Inquiry was presented with overwhelming evidence that Victoria’s regional communities, particularly those in the Otway and Gippsland Basins, have refused to grant any substantive form of “social licence” that might enable onshore unconventional gas exploration or extraction to take place. It is clear that community opposition to any (further) onshore unconventional industry growth or development in Victoria has grown exponentially over time.
“In fact, the evidence indicated that the actual and/or perceived risks of an unconventional gas exploration or extraction are, for an overwhelming majority of communities in regional Victoria, too great to enable exploration or extraction of onshore unconventional gas in the terms proposed by industry”.
They suggest that the funding and resourcing needed to properly manage an UCG industry would be better spent on developing renewable energy.
A fourth report, provided by Government MP Adem Somyurek, called for a three-year moratorium on fracking, but suggested conventional drilling be permitted for onshore gas resources. He wants the government to support drilling for conventional gas immediately. He suggests it is important to “allow conventional non-fracking gas exploration” along with a reservation policy. He wants conventional gas to be taken out of the moratorium. He even quotes the very discredited Peter Reith! Bear in mind that Mr Somyurek only bothered to show up at one of the public hearings!
There are some media stories here:
The Age and
The Weekly Times.