WA frac ban fears persist

UNCERTAINTY surrounds Western Australia’s new Labor government over a threatened fraccing moratorium, though environmental policies that were thrown into doubt in January appear to have died a quiet death.

WA frac ban fears persist Peter Tinley.

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Labor went to Saturday's election with a commitment to impose a largely impotent ban on fraccing in the South West, Peel and Perth metropolitan areas, but it is risk of a state-wide moratorium pending the result of yet another inquiry that has industry worried.
 
A state-wide moratorium on fraccing could impact exploration programs in the Canning Basin and the Mid-West, though there isn't a huge amount of activity happening at the moment due to still-relatively low oil prices.
 
That remains the only Labor policy of concern to industry.
 
"APPEA does not support fraccing bans or moratoriums," Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief operating officer WA Stedman Ellis told Energy News this morning.
 
"Every independent inquiry held to date has confirmed that the risks can be safely managed. We are confident that will be the case in WA.
 
"Onshore gas has the potential to generate jobs and economic development in regional areas. This is exactly what our state needs."
 
It is understood the lobby group expects any inquiry, like others before it, will show that fraccing is safe and the risks can be managed with adequate regulation and industry support.
 
APPEA remains committed in its opposition to any moratorium and will seek to work with the new Labor government to get through them if or when they occur. 
 
Santos and Woodside have publicly put forward the belief that WA is gushing with gas, though Wood Mackenzie begs to differ, forecasting a shortage from about 2022 once North West Shelf contracts are up for re-negotiating.
 
The Australian Energy Market Operator warned in December that any delay in Chevron Corporation's Wheatstone domestic gas facility could make the market tighten up as early as this year.
 
Cabinet
 
New WA Premier Mark McGowan has also appointed Peter Tinley as his new mines and petroleum minister following Saturday's landslide election win.
 
APPEA welcomed Tinley's appointment as he "understands that a strong and vibrant oil and gas sector is vital to the WA economy".
 
Tinley replaces Bill Johnston who previously handled WA Labor's mines and petroleum portfolio while the party was in opposition.
 
Tinley has previously been shadow minister for science; trade; Asian engagement; the Gascoyne; and local jobs.
 
McGowan also appointed Ben Wyatt as both Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal affairs, which is also important for the resources sector.
 
Buru Energy has secured important deals with indigenous leaders over the past year for the Canning Basin.
 
While APPEA did not comment on Wyatt's appointment, the Association of Mineral and Exploration Companies said it saw it as "positive", expressing hope that he can help reduce the cost of doing business.
 
Stephen Dawson has been named environment minister, replacing the Liberal party's Albert Jacob.
 
APPEA breathed a sigh of relief in January when McGowan publicly chastised his then-shadow environment minister Chris Tallentire for breaking party policy when he flagged potential changes to the state's environmental approvals.
 
Tallentire told the media that the then-Opposition would "look at" giving the State Administrative Tribunal the final say in determining appeals against environmentally-sensitive projects. 
 
McGowan swiftly told reporters he had "counselled" Tallentire "fairly heavily" for his public statements.
 
"I think he is guilty of a bit of exuberance and speaking without informing me," McGowan said.
 
McGowan was ironically the state environment minister who approved Chevron Corporation's Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island in 2006 against the advice of the Environmental Protection Authority, which recommended that the project should not proceed on the Class-A Reserve.
 
The EPA concluded that environmental risks remained around the flatback turtle populations, dredging, introduction of non-indigenous species and subterranean and short-range invertebrate fauna.
 
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