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Farmers say “Frack Off” to unconventional gas mining

VICTORIAN farmers are claiming a major victory as State Parliament last night passed the Andrews Government’s Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking) Bill 2016, making Victoria the first Australian state to permanently ban fracking.

The verdict is a win for the Victorian Farmers Federation, which has long lobbied for the ban on unconventional gas exploration, as well as a moratorium on conventional gas extraction until 2020.

“This decision will give security to our landholders and reinforces a commitment to long term investment in the Victorian agriculture industry,” VFF President David Jochinke said.

“It’s fantastic to see both sides of politics swing their support behind our farmers by voting to ensure fracking is permanently banned.”

The decision comes as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences March agricultural report yesterday predicted farm value would reach $63.8 billion this financial year.

Mr Jochinke said it was a relief to see the State Parliament recognise the importance of agriculture to the local economy.

“What we have seen is a clear acknowledgement by our politicians of agriculture’s worth,” Mr Jochinke said.

“Victoria has precious groundwater reserves and because the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining is still unknown, it would be reckless to put those reserves at risk without hard scientific evidence that show the risks of onshore gas development can be properly managed.”

Mr Jochinke also acknowledged the State Opposition for moving an amendment to the legislation that would give farmers the right to veto mining activity on their land if a conventional onshore gas industry is pursued in the future, although the amendment was not accepted.

“It’s pleasing to see that the right to veto has been discussed and that it is on the table if the issue is revisited when the moratorium on conventional gas is revisited in 2020,” he said.

The onshore gas debate in Victoria has been fraught with confusion over the differences between unconventional and conventional gas exploration.

Unconventional gas refers to an underground source of natural gas found in the layers of three types of rock structures (coal seams, tight rocks and shale rocks), which may be extracted by high pressure pumping of water, sand and sometimes chemicals into these structures to release the gas.

Conventional gas is a simpler process that involves drilling directly into gas trapped in porous rocks.

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3 Responses

    This is a big step in the right direction but I am dissapointed that the ammentment that would give farmers the right to veto was not approved. CSG uses massive amounts of water, pumps the equivalent of toxic waste into areas that can and have reached our water supplies and the massive amounts of methane leaking from poorly maintained wells makes the methane from cattle look negligible. The law is yet to catch up and provide adequate protection to farmers who have experienced serious issues from the toxic brews pumped into the coal seams. There are more and more farmers every year speaking out against the irreparable damage done to their properties (eg the uranium that has permanently contaminated one farmers property with no possible recovery and as yet no compensation). Until mining companies are required to release the details of the chemical brew that they pump in and are required to pay significantly higher than district market value if their activities result in an unviable farm then the whole activity should be stopped. And to all those people who think it is safe - can they explain to me why the mining companies are using uranium in their chemical mix? CSG extraction was originally discovered when a toxic waste dump leaked into a coal seam releasing the gas. I suspect that CSG mining is still being used to 'dispose' of toxic waste.

    There is more than a touch of hypocrisy in all this. The #1 article in this weekly wrap is about the need for farmers to have affordable, reliable, low emissions electricity. Fair enough, but then we have an article with Victorian farmers celebrating their government banning fracking and even exploration for unconventional gas till 2020. Where's the cheap reliable power going to come from then? Hazelwood is just about to shut down so it would make sense to make more use of gas one would think. It seems Victorian farmers are quite happy to use gas from some interstate farmers land but not their own.

    The agnst from farmers about not wanting gas mining is understandable. However it is misguided and the farmer organisations have worked themselves into a corner which will be difficult to extricate themselves from. Farmers need energy and gas is a good source. local gas is even better. The reason the USA has near energy self sufficiency is entirely because it developed its unconventional gas and saved us all from very much higher energy prices. Mining has successfully managed unconventional gas for some time now. Blow outs and contamination incidents are always possible but are manageable. I ask the farming organisations to put serious resources to properly understanding the risks and then being active in communicating a balanced approach. You might also try a more logical approach, such as changing the laws related to payments to farmers when their land is needed for the good of the nation overall. As I understand it, in the USA farmers negotiate royalties which are usually about 25% of the total net value of the asset extracted. That would make a lot of farmers quite wealthy and no doubt change the attitude to mining. John Crosby

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