WITH the temporary ban for onshore conventional gas drilling expiring, concerns are being raised on how it will impact climate change.

In 2012, an administrative moratorium was placed on all onshore gas exploration and development in Victoria.

In June 2020, the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Act 2020 was passed by the Victorian parliament, which allowed for the restart of onshore conventional gas exploration and production from July 1, 2021.

The restart follows three years of investigations by the Victorian Gas Program (VGP), which determined an onshore conventional gas industry would not compromise the environment or agricultural sector.

As a result of VGP’s geoscientific studies, maps highlighting prospective areas for onshore conventional gas ranged from Bass Coast to East Gippsland, and parts of south-west Victoria.

While the state government passed a Constitution Amendment (fracking ban) Bill 2020 in March this year, which bans fracking in Victoria, conventional gas extraction does not involve the practice.

Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker said the decision to reopen the state to gas companies was troubling for regional communities, farmers and the climate.

“It is at odds with climate science, and the government’s own commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2050,” Mr Walker said.

“It will also do little to help consumers: the government’s own report found that the full development of known gas resources would not reduce wholesale gas prices.”

Berrys Creek beef farmer and member of Coal and Gasfield Free Mirboo North, Fergus O’Connor, echoed the sentiment.

“It is hugely disappointing that onshore conventional gas is now being considered,” Mr O’Connor said.

“As farmers, we are dealing with a changing climate on a daily basis and must adapt our farming practices accordingly.

“It is a well-established scientific fact that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change and gas is a fossil fuel.

“It’s imperative that renewable energy takes over from fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

In August, Friends of the Earth will launch a new online tool called Drillwatch to help communities track and oppose new gas developments.

However, according to Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Victorian director Ashley

Wells, the original ban forced Victoria to rely on other states to solve its gas supply issues.

“Victoria has abundant local onshore resources but for years has rather imported gas from other states,” Mr Wells said.

“Incredibly, it has even considered importing it from overseas with the planned import terminal.

“The cheapest gas available to Victorian homes and businesses is the gas they are standing on, and lifting of the moratorium is a good first step to getting on and developing it.”