The ban has been slightly relaxed, but fracking is still not permitted over 98 percent of the state, leaving oil and gas proponents unhappy.
Western Australia has slightly softened its previous state-wide ban on hydraulic fracturing — also referred to as fracking — with the announcement that it will be permitted in select areas.
The news came in a midday announcement on Tuesday (November 27), with the state government explaining that the ban will be lifted on existing onshore petroleum titles following a scientific inquiry to prove it will be a low-risk endeavor.
Fracking will not be permitted over 98 percent of the state, and the existing ban over the South-West, Peel and Perth metropolitan regions remains in place.
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Chairperson Tom Hatton conducted a 12-month independent inquiry leading up to the announcement, from which he made 44 recommendations to the fracking regulatory regime.
The recommendations include no fracking within 2 kilometers of public drinking water source areas, towns, settlements or residents. In addition, all fracking projects will require an EPA assessment.
Western Australia’s government intends to implement all of the recommendations from the inquiry before granting any future fracking production approvals.
“Banning fracking on existing petroleum titles after the scientific inquiry found the risk from fracking is low, would undermine Western Australia’s reputation as a safe place to invest and do business,” Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said.
McGowan also highlighted the state government’s new move that gives landowners and farmers the right to say no to oil and gas production from fracking on their land.
“This is a balanced and responsible policy that supports economic opportunity, new jobs, environmental protection and landowner rights,” he said.
Western Australia’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) was less than enthused about the move, calling the decision a “missed opportunity” for domestic gas supply.
“We have already had 13 hydraulic fracturing inquiries in Australia, including a very thorough investigation by the WA Parliament just three years ago. Like all of the others, it found no evidence to support activist demands that hydraulic fracturing must be banned,” CME Chief Executive Paul Everingham said in a statement.
“Today’s announcement is a missed opportunity to tap into WA’s potentially massive shale and tight gas assets and provide the WA community with a greater domestic gas supply,” he added.
Australia’s Northern Territory opted to lift its own moratorium on fracking in April of this year; according to the CME statement, at least $200 million worth of potential investment was lost or delayed while the ban was in place.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Olivia Da Silva, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.