State govt greenlight for offshore gas exploration further locks in Victoria’s reliance on polluting fossil fuels

Community resistance to gas announcements in VIC

State Minister for Resources, Jaclyn Symes, has today announced that permits have been granted to Beach Energy and Bridgeport Energy to explore for gas in state waters near Portland and Port Campbell. 

Community-driven environment group Friends of the Earth says the long-awaited announcement is deeply disappointing.

“The Victorian government understands that time is running out when it comes to climate change and has committed to net zero emissions for the state by 2050,” said Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth co-ordinator.

“This means that, year on year, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Opening up new sources of fossil fuels, like offshore gas, is deeply at odds with both climate science and the government’s own commitments.”

Analysis by the The Australia Institute found the state government underestimated the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its decision to scrap the moratorium on onshore gas drilling. 

Friends of the Earth says seismic testing associated with the offshore gas exploration is a concern for local communities due to the impact on marine life and fisheries. 

“Exploration involves geological studies to search for offshore gas deposits, including a range of ‘desktop and field activities’ which are likely to include seismic testing,” explains Cam Walker.

“There can be no doubt that seismic testing will impact on marine life, including whales, and both commercial and recreational fishing.”

Commercial fishers in East Gippsland reported catch reductions of up 80 per cent in the wake of seismic testing. The regulator said the surveyor was complying with regulations. However, this controversial surveying technique has been used around Australia to look for oil and gas, and many scientists have warned that the impacts on marine life can be deadly.

Friends of the Earth will write to the minister to seek an assurance that the government would apply the best practice methodology for GHG accounting, as used by The Australia Institute in their previous analysis.

The government says that these offshore gas resources can be accessed from onshore without the need for offshore drilling rigs. However, the climate implications of the drilling will be considerable. Gas is a non renewable resource, which is in rapid decline. The end of fossil gas is inevitable, and this will continue to drive up the price of gas. The only sensible solution is for governments to assist householders and commercial users to get off gas.