Andrews government bans coal-seam gas 'fracking' in Victoria

Principal Solicitor of EDO NSW Sue Higginson

The latest move will serve as a sigh of relief for Victorian farmers who are anxious about the environmental and health risks associated with fracking.

"If anything, allowing new onshore conventional gas exploration and extraction reinforces the validity of the ban on fracking".

Exemptions to the ban will remain for activities not covered by the current moratorium, such as gas storage, carbon storage research and accessing offshore resources.

Gas companies that may suffer from Victoria's planned fracking ban should consider moving to South Australia instead, the SA government says. "The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria's hard-won reputation for producing high quality food". "We won't put that at risk with fracking", state Labor Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Andrews government said it also planned to legislate to extend the current moratorium on the exploration and development of conventional onshore gas until 30 June 2020, and to undertake "the most extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies in Australia" on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore gas.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the environmental risks posed by the practice, whereby liquids are blasted into rocks to force existing fissures open and enable the extraction of coal seam gas, exceeded any benefits derived from it.

The Victorian Government's decision to permanently ban development of its valuable gas reserves has undermined its own authority as a participant in East Coast gas market reform, said Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) Chief Executive Cheryl Cartwright. "And it just speaks volumes to the dangers, the uncertainty and the anxiety within the Victorian community about fracking - we just don't think those risks are worth taking", he added.

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The Greens are pleased with the ban, but are frustrated that all onshore gas exploration has not been halted in the state.

These will be overseen by an expert panel, headed by the Lead Scientist Amanda Caples, and will include farmers and industry, business and community representatives.

Chloe Aldenhoven, coordinator for Lock the Gate, said about 1.4m hectares of Victoria was threatened by some form of onshore gas mining, which included coal seam gas, tight gas, shale gas and underground coal gasification.

There has been stiff resistance to coal seam gas gas exploration in some Australian states mainly on environmental grounds.

A moratorium on fracking had been in place in Victoria since 2012.

"We won't stop fighting until all onshore gas drilling is banned", Ms Sandell said in a statement on Tuesday.

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