Get fracking: Moratorium lifted for WA petroleum sites

WA Premier Mark McGowan, image: CPSU/CSA

The Western Australian government has lifted a moratorium on fracking on existing onshore petroleum sites after it alleges an independent scientific inquiry found the risk to people and the environment is “low”.

The moratorium will remain in place for 98 per cent of the state, including in the south-west, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions. National parks, Dampier Peninsula and public water source areas are also still off limits.

Premier Mark McGowan said the government delivered on its election promise to ban fracking in certain regions.

“This is a balanced and responsible policy that supports economic opportunity, new jobs, environmental protection and landowner rights,” Mr McGowan said.

The McGowan Government also said traditional owners and farmers will have the right to say no to oil and gas production from fracking on their land.

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“… It is crucial that the industry demonstrates that it has the support of landowners who, for the first time, will be able to say yes or no to any fracking production on their land,” Mr McGowan said.

The 12-month independent inquiry by Environmental Protection Authority chairperson Dr Tom Hatton made 44 recommendations. Major changes to the existing regulatory regime include:

  • No fracking to be allowed within two kilometres of gazetted public drinking water source areas;
  • All fracking projects, including exploration and production wells, to require EPA assessment;
  • The development of an enforceable Code of Practice to ensure high standards of health, safety and environmental protection; and
  • No fracking allowed within two kilometres of towns, settlements or residents.

Spokesperson from the Lock the Gate Alliance Jane Hammond said on the issue of climate change alone, fracking cannot be done without contributing adversely to climate change.

“The WA Fracking Inquiry scientific panel did not include any climate scientists nor did it include any medical experts,” Ms Hammond said.

“The nation’s top climate scientists have told the WA Government that allowing fracking in WA ‘would be grossly irresponsible’ given the current climate emergency.

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“On top of this we have had two major Aboriginal groups in the Kimberley, whose traditional lands are earmarked for fracking, voting against any moves to frack their land; meanwhile WA’s most powerful unions; Labor’s own state executive; prominent Australians including Professor Fiona Stanley and Janet Holmes a Court; and more than 14,000 people who have signed an official paper petition opposing fracking; are all calling for a ban.

“We call on the McGowan Labor Government to listen to the people and to the science and ban fracking across the whole of WA.”

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has welcomed the news.

“The independent scientific inquiry has confirmed that properly regulated, hydraulic fracturing is a safe practice. Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely in Western Australia since 1958,” APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said.

“The inquiry shows there is no environmental or public health justification for maintaining the moratorium. The inquiry also rejects claims that onshore projects will mean a significant increase in emissions.

“While the industry would have preferred the removal of the moratorium across the state, this decision will give communities in regional WA the choice to support local projects and jobs.”

The government added that royalties from any unconventional onshore oil and gas projects will be used to support new renewable energy projects via a special Clean Energy Future Fund with a $9 million seed allocation.