2013

LONG WAY TO GO IN CSG DEBATE

December 2, 2013

Over the past two years many East Gippslanders have contacted me to ask questions about the potential for coal seam gas (CSG) development in our region.

The most common concerns have been in relation to whether CSG exploration and production would have an impact on water resources, environmental amenity and agricultural land. The granting of exploration licences and approval for mining projects are primarily matters for the State Government to resolve and it must be stressed that there is currently no CSG production in Victoria.

The production of natural gas has been regulated by the Victorian Government for more than 40 years and the government recently announced that it would not support on-shore gas production until all of the scientific facts are known and any risks are fully assessed.

Premier Denis Napthine also announced a continuation of the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in addition to a comprehensive and independent water study; a ban on BTEX chemicals; and a formal community consultation process that will report in July 2015.

These announcements come on the back of the Federal Parliament passing an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) ensuring that potential water impacts act as a trigger for further Federal Government approval.

The Federal Government has also established the Independent Expert Scientific Committee which is providing independent scientific advice on CSG and large coal mining.

The Nationals, at a Federal level, were the first party to announce a clear position on how the CSG industry should operate with five key principles:
* No CSG development should damage aquifers or water quality;
* No developments should occur on prime agricultural land;
* No developments should occur in close proximity to residential areas;
* Landowners deserve a return, not just compensation, from a resource on their land and; and
* Real investment must be made back into the communities that generate our resource wealth.

Effectively, we are determined to ensure that proper regulations are in place and local communities have the opportunity to fully discuss any proposals, armed with detailed and accurate information. It is a difficult and complex issue where the economic development imperatives of regional Australia must be balanced with full consideration of environment and social impacts in affected communities.

I intend to work closely with my State Government counterparts and the local community to ensure that any decisions are made in the best interests of East Gippslanders.

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