South West VIC Community Responds to Scrapped Gas Ban

Community members in South West Victoria have responded to the lifting of the moratorium on onshore gas drilling. 

Members of the Protect the West Alliance from the Otways to Portland have collected over 1000 signatures on a petition calling for an extension of a ban on onshore gas exploration.

Premier Dan Andrews made the announcement to scrap the temporary ban on onshore gas drilling in March, one day after declaring a state of emergency in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yesterday, the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill was moved in the Victorian parliament to formally lift the ban.  The Bill was met with criticism from The Victorian Greens, who noted that the Andrew’s government had significantly underestimated the environmental impact that an expansion of the gas industry would cause, and that the government was better off prioritising support towards growing the renewable energy sector (Renew Economy, 2 June 2020).

Community opposition to drilling remains strong across regional Victoria with over 70 communities declaring themselves 'gasfield free' as part of the campaign that also banned fracking.

 

 

Dear Premier Andrews,

We represent the 1000 community members of South West Victoria who have signed the enclosed petition. We the undersigned call on the Victorian Government to:

‘maintain the BAN on FRACKING, EXTEND the MORATORIUM for ON-SHORE gas/oil mining for another five (5) years and advocate for immediate action on the 2017 Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) regulations that allow the Victorian Government to meet the needs of their domestic markets prior to any gas exploration’. 

We are frustrated and disappointed with your government’s decision to lift the moratorium on onshore gas exploration and drilling, and as a result place at risk our farmland, water, climate and communities.

The timing of the Government announcement on lifting the moratorium came cynically before, or at the same time as the Victorian Gas Program Progress Report was made available to the public. This gave no opportunity to comment on the contents/findings of the Report, as input to the Government decision. Its announcing of the decision three months earlier than necessary, and during the pandemic when organised protest cannot occur, is underhanded.

We note that the Victorian Gas Program workshops to seek community consultation in Gippsland are taking place next week, after the Report’s findings have been released, some three months prior.

It is misleading to summarise the social acceptance data in the Progress Report as ‘almost80% of community members accept/embrace’ the onshore gas industry. The same data indicates that almost 50% [44%] of community members vehemently oppose/[barely] tolerate the same industry. Percentage response of absolute rejection of the industry is twice that of desired embracement.  That summation takes detailed bar graph reading skills to find in the report - it should have been highlighted in the paragraphs of the Report abstract. 

The Report indicates a potential for 830 petajoules to be mined if the Basins are drilled to their maximum. At current annual static State usage of 220 petajoules, that is less than 4years supply. The only ways companies can make long-term return from their investment iseither by trickling supply onto the market and maintain ‘scarcity’, or from public subsidy.

Both ways are egregious. The Progress Reports opens with an acknowledgement that lifting the moratorium won’t began immediate fix for natural gas supply to Victoria: ‘The expected amount of new gas would not be a large enough volume to impact gas prices or gas demand in the state…regardless of their timeframe or level of development’. The APPEA also confirmed this in December 2019.

The economic Opportunity Cost of further postponement of investment and transition to renewable energy sources to reduce transmissions and submissions and impact on climate should have been included in the Report. It is glib to merely give the possible jobs and dollars pursuant to gas mining in isolation.

Community members are concerned about the risks associated with onshore drilling on land, and water, and the risk of increasing emissions on our climate and shared future.

Farm owners are protesting because they want to produce food long-term for social good taking account of the need to change practices socially and productively to address climate change. 

Onshore gas mining is the opposite of these goals, and a dead-end industry for all of us.

 

Protect the West Alliance

Gas Field Free Branxholme, Byaduk & Wallacedale

Extinction Rebellion South West Victoria

Gas Field Free Drumborg 

Gas Field Free Glenelg

No Gasfields Lower Glenelg

Otway Climate Emergency Action Network

South West Community Energy

Sustainable Agriculture and Communities Alliance

Warrnambool Coast and Land Care 

Friends of the Earth