Western Australia has implemented a ban on fraccing for existing and future petroleum titles in the South-West, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions, as well as a moratorium on fraccing throughout the rest of the state.
The State Government’s ban and moratorium prohibits companies from using fraccing during exploration or production.
The future of fraccing in Western Australia will be decided following an independent scientific inquiry, chaired by Environmental Protection Authority chairperson, Tom Hatton.
The inquiry will use credible scientific and historical evidence to assess each level of risk and outline regulatory mechanisms to identify or minimise these risks.
Minister for Environment, Stephen Dawson, said the government need to recognise the environmental risks associated with extracting petroleum products using fraccing.
“We appreciate there is a level of community concern around fraccing in Western Australia, which is why we are commissioning an independent scientific inquiry,” Mr Dawson said.
“We are delivering our election commitment to conduct a public inquiry into the use of fraccing. This will include holding community meetings in Perth, Geraldton and Broome.”
Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Johnston, said the moratorium will have a major impact on unconventional oil and gas
“We will not compromise the environment, agriculture, groundwater and public health in Western Australia,” Mr Johnston said.
“To give certainty to the community, we are implementing the ban and moratorium through delegated legislation.”
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Chief Operating Officer – Western Australia, Stedman Ellis, said an inquiry by the Western Australian Legislative Council’s Environment and Public Affairs Committee had already found that fraccing posed negligible risk.
“The Environment and Public Affairs Committee considered all of the evidence and listened to all sides of the debate before unanimously concluding after a two-year inquiry that any concerns about fraccing can be addressed through regulation and ongoing monitoring,” Mr Ellis said.
“The committee’s findings echoed those of more than a dozen other inquiries in Australia and countless independent reviews and studies which all confirmed that fraccing is safe.
“The Health Department says fraccing can be done without compromising drinking water and Australia’s Chief Scientist says the evidence shows it’s ‘completely safe’.
“This is not a new technology. According to the Department of Mines and Petroleum, more than 600 wells have been fracced in Western Australia in the past 55 years with no evidence of environmental harm.
“Western Australia does not need another fraccing inquiry. What it desperately needs is new jobs, investment and royalties to help repair the state budget.”
Mr Ellis said more than $380 million worth of investment in new onshore gas projects has stalled since the State Government imposed a moratorium on fraccing. One company is now looking to Canada rather than risking its future in Western Australia.
He said politically-motivated bans and restrictions not only damaged the onshore gas industry, they also undermined Western Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business.
“The facts clearly show that fraccing is safe – so it’s likely this inquiry, like all the others before it, will conclude that any risks can be managed with proper regulation,” Mr Ellis said.
“It is vital, therefore, that this new inquiry report back to the government as quickly as possible and that it results in the removal of the fraccing moratorium.
“A safe and sustainable onshore gas industry has the potential to provide jobs and investment in regional communities, royalties for the budget and a new source of energy for our state.
“The industry should be allowed to get on with it.”