Coal Seam Gas Inquiry
Lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia appeared before the Victorian Government’s Coal Seam Gas Inquiry in Torquay.
Last year, Victoria announced a 12 month moratorium on exploring for unconventional gas exploration, including coal seam gas and fracking.
The inquiry was set up to examine the science around these controversial and environmentally damaging technologies.
Our advice was that the moratorium on unconventional gas in Victoria should not be lifted until laws are fixed to protect our communities.
Our submission stated that the current legislative framework poses environmental risks, public health risks, risk of land-use conflicts and a threat to community rights.
While we understand that there is considerable scientific uncertainty as to the extent of these impacts, EJA is of the view that an absence of data should not lead to the assumption that no harm is caused by unconventional gas activities.
Current mining laws in Victoria are not strong enough to protect the public from the risks of unconventional gas extraction. Coal seam gas is covered under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act and shale gas is covered under the Petroleum Act.
The current regulatory regime is not sufficiently robust to protect communities and the environment, and the moratorium on activities associated with the production of onshore unconventional gas should remain in place until more is known about the risks involved, and the regulatory regime is reformed in a way that adequately protects Victorian communities and the Victorian environment.
The inquiry will deliver an interim report by 1 September 2015 and a final report by 1 December 2015.
At the same time, the Victorian Auditor General has released a report titled Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts. This audit found that Victoria is not as well placed as it could be to respond to the risks and impacts that could arise if unconventional gas activities are allowed to proceed.