An indefinite extension of the Moratorium in New Brunswick was announced on 27th May 2016. The original moratorium commenced in December 2014. It set up five major conditions that must be met by the industry before the process can commence.
In any comparison Victoria fails the very first condition – a social licence:
Clearly there is no social licence for onshore gas extraction in Victoria, where over 95% of the members of 73 communities have declared themselves gasfield free, and numerous protests against onshore gas extraction have been held. Since 2012 the actions, consultations and declarations have provided a continuous stream of evidence that there is no social licence here. It is also clear, from the determination of Victorian rural communities, there will never be a social licence.
Conditions for protecting health and environment cannot be met:
The requirement for “clear and credible information” on the impacts on health, the environment and water is innately prohibitive. As the evidence piles up for negative impacts and the industry’s failure or inability to prevent damage, it becomes clear that the only successful regulatory regime would be a ban.
Industry will not meet the conditions:
The decision to extend the New Brunswick Moratorium was made after a Commission undertook a year-long study into the industry, and was based on the industry’s failure to meet the conditions of the moratorium. The Provincial Government stated that the global drop in gas prices made it even more unlikely that industry would meet the conditions, thus demonstrating insight into extraction industries’ reluctance to spend on remediation and environmental protection.
It is clear from the fire caused by flaring off at one of the Seaspray wells that protection of the environment is not a consideration for the industry in Victoria. Where the industry has been allowed to go ahead in New South Wales and Queensland the record is poor if not disgraceful, with leaks of uranium and other heavy metals and contamination of an aquifer with uranium in the Pilliga, gas leaks in Gloucester and “massive uncertainty” about the real quantity of fugitive emissions.”
What is so impressive about this Moratorium is the New Brunswick Government’s consideration of the concerns of its constituents, First Nations people, their water and environment. They also demonstrate a perceptive analysis of the way the industry works, understanding that reduction in income for gas extractors will result in reduction in precautions and remediation. It seems unlikely that conditions for the moratorium will be met within the next few years, effectively preventing any foreseeable extraction.
For Victoria’s rural communities the same conditions would apply. There is no social licence. Risks to health, environment and water cannot be ruled out. There has been no agreement with First Nations. There is no way the industry can guarantee protection of water. The community cannot benefit from onshore gas extraction. Or as we say in these parts: Only a Ban Will Do.