MAC: Mines and Communities

Victoria against fracking in Australia

Published by MAC on 2016-09-14
Source: Europe-solidaire.org, Victoria Premier, Reuters (2016-09-14)

Brave and determined farmers and community groups have fought hard

Victoria has become the first Australian state to introduce a permanent ban on onshore fracking and coal seam gas exploration. This victory is music to the ears for hundreds of campaigns against fossil fuel companies being fought around the globe.

“Our farmers produce some of the world’s cleanest and freshest food. We won’t put that at risk with fracking”, stated Victoria Premier, Daniel Andrews.

Meanwhile, Gina Rinehart-backed gas explorer, Lakes Oil, is looking at legal action to overturn the ban.

See also on MAC:

015-08-21 Australia outrageous climate change "policy"

2013-02-25 Rinehart Coal Mine Draws Environmentalists' Opposition

2012-05-29 Ride on, Australia's Rinehart Cowgirl!

Fracking, coal seam gas – Victoria (Australia): Grassroots environmental campaigners win landmark victory

Conrad Bower

http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article38904

30 September 2016

Victoria has become the first Australian state to introduce a permanent ban on onshore fracking and coal seam gas exploration. Hailed as a stunning and inspiring victory of a “grassroots” movement fighting against a strong streak of climate change denial in the national government and the economic might of the fossil fuel corporations.

The decision by Victoria’s government follows a parliamentary inquiry into onshore unconventional gas exploration which received over 1600 submissions, the majority of them stating concerns over fracking and coal seam gas.

This worrying decision for the global fossil fuel industry is due to five years of campaigning by Lock the Gate Alliance (LGA), a coalition of rural communities, farmers, and environmental groups. Phil Gaird of the LGA was complementary of Victoria’s Labor government and its premier Daniel Andrews on their decision, but he had no doubt as to who was due the most praise, saying on the LGA website:

This outcome is a credit to the brave and determined farmers and community groups who have fought long and hard against risky gas mining, and it is reassuring to see that state governments are starting to listen to people and their demands to protect land and water resources. It is ground-breaking precedent that is being watched by people across the country.

Federal Government in denial

The decision in Victoria flies in the face of the national Federal government’s pro-fossil fuels stance. Australians may have hoped for a more environmentally progressive Federal government when they voted in Malcolm Turnbull, who claimed he would double clean energy investment and make the biggest reductions in carbon emissions of any G20 nation.

As the elected Australian PM he has pursued a strategy reminiscent of that of the UK’s ex PM, ‘hug a husky‘ David Cameron. Since gaining office Turnbull has made huge cuts to climate science research, invested in a government department promoting fossil fuel use and ended grants to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Most recently, Turnbull has included energy into the environmental ministers brief and appointed Josh Frydenberg as the minister, who argues there is a “strong moral case” for new coal mines and is known as ‘Mr Coal’.

Grassroots

Ellen Sandell, of the Green Party, felt relief for the communities that have been fighting for their local environment by opposing fracking for years, saying in The Guardian:

"This decision proves the power of grassroots advocacy… Individuals have won over powerful and influential mining companies, and the Greens are proud to have led the political campaign which forced the government to support a permanent ban.

Sandell also expressed some disappointment that the door had been left open to the fossil fuel companies regarding conventional onshore gas drilling. She is determined to keep fighting until that door is firmly shut."

Sound economics

An area of Victoria roughly one and a half times the size of Wales was threatened by some form of unconventional onshore gas mining before the groundbreaking ban. It was not only concerns for the health of the environment and its inhabitants that prompted the ban. Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor at the Australia Institute said, in The Guardian, the ban was a “sound economic and energy policy”

Ogge raised research carried out in Queensland on unconventional gas extraction that shows the much lauded benefits predicted by the fossil fuel industry had mainly failed to materialise. The research found that for every 10 gas jobs gained, 18 agricultural jobs were lost. Ogge also pointed to the perversness of the gas market that was damaging manufacturing in Australia, saying:

"We now have the ridiculous situation that Australian gas is now cheaper in Korea than it is in Australia. That’s a double-disaster for local manufacturing jobs.

What benefits there are, have gone almost entirely to the overseas owners of global oil and gas companies licensed to export Australian gas, largely at the expense of Australian businesses and local jobs."

Global battle

The victory in Victoria will be music to the ears of the myriad campaigns against the activities of the fossil fuel companies being fought around the globe. The Victorians have provided us with a shining example of the power of an organised community to influence political decisions and oppose powerful interests that wish to plunder the environment.


Victoria Bans Fracking To Protect Farmers

http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/victoria-bans-fracking-to-protect-farmers/

30 August 2016

In a national first, the Andrews Labor Government today announced a permanent ban on the exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas in Victoria, including hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and coal seam gas.

The permanent legislative ban, to be introduced to Parliament later this year, will protect the ‘clean, green’ reputation of Victoria’s agriculture sector, which employs more than 190,000 people. This will provide much-needed certainty to regional communities.

The decision ends the anxiety felt by Victorian farmers about the environmental and health risks associated with fracking and forms part of the government response to the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into Onshore Unconventional Gas in Victoria.

This Inquiry received more than 1600 submissions, mostly opposed to onshore unconventional gas. It is clear that the Victorian community has spoken – they simply don’t support fracking.

The Government’s decision is based on the best available evidence and acknowledges that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits to Victoria.

Our state is the nation’s top food and fibre producer with exports worth $11.6 billion. The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria’s hard-won reputation for producing high quality food.

Exemptions to the ban will remain for other types of activities that are not covered by the current moratorium, such as gas storage, carbon storage research and accessing offshore resources. Exploration and development for offshore gas will also continue.

Until the legislation is passed by Parliament, the current moratorium on unconventional onshore gas exploration and development will stay in place.

The Labor Government will also legislate to extend the current moratorium on the exploration and development of conventional onshore gas until 30 June 2020, noting that fracking will remain banned. We will undertake the most extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies in Australia on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore gas.

These will be overseen by an expert panel, headed by the Lead Scientist Amanda Caples, and will include farmers and industry, business and community representatives.

Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews

“Our farmers produce some of the world’s cleanest and freshest food. We won’t put that at risk with fracking.”

“Victorians have made it clear that they don’t support fracking and that the health and environmental risks involved outweigh any potential benefits.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Resources Wade Noonan

“There has been a great deal of community concern and anxiety about onshore unconventional gas – this decision gets the balance right.“

“We have carefully considered the Parliamentary Inquiry’s key findings and recommendations, consulted widely and made our decision on the best available evidence.”


Gina Rinehart-backed Lakes Oil aims legal blowtorch at Victorian government

Colin Kruger

http://www.smh.com.au/business/cbd/gina-rinehartbacked-lakes-oil-aims-legal-blowtorch-at-victorian-government-20160908-grbjsa.html

September 9 2016

The Gina Rinehart-backed gas explorer, Lakes Oil, is looking at legal action to overturn the Victorian government's ban on onshore gas exploration in the state.

In an update to the market on Thursday, Lakes Oil reiterated its "extreme disappointment" with the Victorian government's decision to maintain the ban and would "consider all options available to it".

But Lakes Oil chief executive, Roland Sleeman, went one step further on Thursday. He said the company confirms it is "formally investigating the potential for legal action".

The company, with a market value of just $12 million, said half of its 11,000 shareholders are Victorian residents.

But its largest shareholder Western Australia-based billionaire, Rinehart, would have a big say in determining whether such action will go ahead.

Sleeman told CBD that he has yet to contact Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting but it is "clearly something I will do in due course".

Lakes Oil's board is also heavily invested in the prospect of litigation and Rinehart has her man on the board, climate sceptic Professor Ian Plimer.

Alexander Downer also represented Rinehart's interests on the board before he became our high commissioner to Britain.

Besides, we all know what Gina thinks of government red tape when it comes to resource development.

From Sleeman's point of view the argument is a simple one. The legislation is meant to support oil and gas exploration, and the Daniel Andrews government clearly is not doing that.

And given Lakes Oil has spent about $100 million on exploration in Victoria, it does not leave the company with many options, other than legal action.


Australian Gas Explorer May Sue State Over Fracking Ban

“What the government’s done is just unbelievable,” said Lakes Oil chief executive.

Reuters - http://fortune.com/2016/08/31/lake-oils-australia-victoria-fracking/

August 31, 2016

Lakes Oil, a junior oil and gas explorer in Australia, is considering the grounds it may have for suing Victoria state, after the government there permanently banned fracking and extended a halt on onshore conventional gas drilling to 2020.

Lakes Oil shares sank 50% on Wednesday in their first trading since the fracking ban was announced, and the stock was the second most active on the Australian exchange.

The moves by the southeastern state mean Lakes will not be able to go ahead with two tentative deals lined up in 2014 to supply gas from its Wombat onshore conventional gas field to U.S. giant Dow Chemical DOW -0.94% and Australian food manufacturer Simplot.

“What the government’s done is just unbelievable. It’s unprecedented,” Lakes Oil Chief Executive Roland Sleeman told Reuters in an interview.

Sleeman would not say whether his company would seek compensation from Victoria, but said it was a “really relevant question.”

“I invite you to have a look at what has happened elsewhere. The key example is Metgasco in New South Wales – not exactly the same situation – but ultimately it was compensated by government,” he said.

New South Wales agreed last year to pay Metgasco A$25 million ($19 million) to buy back three exploration licenses after suspending approval for drilling at a promising coal seam gas site due to public protests.

A lawyer, however, said it would be difficult to win compensation from the Victorian government, because, mining and petroleum licenses are not property rights. They are administrative entitlements, which a government can terminate with legislation.

“What the government’s done is just unbelievable,” said Lakes Oil chief executive.

Lakes Oil, a junior oil and gas explorer in Australia, is considering the grounds it may have for suing Victoria state, after the government there permanently banned fracking and extended a halt on onshore conventional gas drilling to 2020.

Lakes Oil shares sank 50% on Wednesday in their first trading since the fracking ban was announced, and the stock was the second most active on the Australian exchange.

The moves by the southeastern state mean Lakes will not be able to go ahead with two tentative deals lined up in 2014 to supply gas from its Wombat onshore conventional gas field to U.S. giant Dow Chemical DOW -0.94% and Australian food manufacturer Simplot.

“What the government’s done is just unbelievable. It’s unprecedented,” Lakes Oil Chief Executive Roland Sleeman told Reuters in an interview.

Sleeman would not say whether his company would seek compensation from Victoria, but said it was a “really relevant question.”

“I invite you to have a look at what has happened elsewhere. The key example is Metgasco in New South Wales – not exactly the same situation – but ultimately it was compensated by government,” he said.

New South Wales agreed last year to pay Metgasco A$25 million ($19 million) to buy back three exploration licenses after suspending approval for drilling at a promising coal seam gas site due to public protests.

A lawyer, however, said it would be difficult to win compensation from the Victorian government, because, mining and petroleum licenses are not property rights. They are administrative entitlements, which a government can terminate with legislation.

“As a general rule, when governments take away entitlements under mining and petroleum legislation, then there’s not a right to compensation,” said Jeff Lynn, a partner at law firm Ashurst.

Victoria-focused Lakes was also considering a range of commercial options, Sleeman said, including expanding into South Australia state, which is eager to promote gas development.

Lakes could merge with another company, buy assets that larger players are spinning off, or in an extreme case, fold, he also said.

Lakes Oil has spent at least A$80 million to prove up gas resources on its Victorian acreage, Sleeman said.

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