Gas exploration green light during coronavirus emergency ‘sneaky’, Victorian farmers say
By Rio Davis
Victorian farmers say the State Government’s decision to reinstate onshore conventional gas exploration during a coronavirus state of emergency is calculated and “sneaky”.
On Tuesday, the Andrews Government announced it will introduce new laws to allow for an “orderly restart” of drilling for gas reserves underground from July 2021.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the new gas supplies would be reserved for Victorians, and companies that wanted to drill for gas on private land would have to strike agreements with landholders.
Mr Andrews said production of the resource could generate more than $310 million annually for regional economies.
Michael Greenham, a beef farmer from Dartmoor near the Otway Basin gas reserve, said he was “annoyed, frustrated and demoralised” by the decision.
“It’s a political and deliberate decision to hide the announcement, three months earlier than required, in amongst the pandemic situation,” he said.
On the other side of the state near the Gippsland Basin gas reserve, Fergus O’Connor said the decision could wreak havoc on the water table in prime agricultural lands throughout Victoria.
“I think it’s pretty sneaky they’ve tried to squeeze it in on the back of the coronavirus and hide it,” the Berrys Creek “mum and dad” beef farmer said.
“There are people who are pretty passionate about the climate and the weather, and they’re going to stand up and make a noise. It won’t go away.”
The resumption of conventional onshore gas exploration was introduced to Parliament at the same time as the Government introduced legislation to enshrine the fracking ban into the state constitution.
The Victorian Minister for Resources, Jaclyn Symes, said potential gas projects could create more than 6,400 jobs over their lifespan.
“Three years of research shows securing local gas supply for Victorians will not come at the cost of the state’s groundwater supplies, agricultural industries, or our farming’s clean and green reputation,” Ms Symes said.
Speaking with ABC Statewide Drive’s Nicole Chvastek, Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said the State Government was “sliding back in behind” the fossil fuel industry.
“We’ve got a looming problem in the gas market which is that our prices are going up and … we’re shipping more out in exports,” he said.
“We’re getting into these really perverse situations where Australians are paying more for gas than that getting shipped overseas.”
This content was originally published here.