The Victorian Gas Market Taskforce, which was led by former Howard Government Minister Peter Reith, has released its final report. The Taskforce was commissioned by the former Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, in December 2012 to consider ways to improve the operation and efficiency of the east coast gas market, and increase gas supply. The recommendations in the report support the development of the onshore gas industry in Victoria to increase gas production, in the context of the depletion of offshore gas reserves and projected increases in the price of gas.
The report’s key recommendations include the lifting of the current ban on hydraulic fracking and the issue of further CSG exploration licences. The report also recommends that a Gas Commissioner be appointed to promote community consultation and the dissemination of credible information about CSG, with a view to increasing community confidence in the CSG industry.
In releasing the report , Premier Denis Napthine said that this was the ‘first step in a consultative process to seek Victorians’ views on issues of concern in regard to onshore gas in Victoria’. Feedback on the report is being sought until the end of March 2014, prior to a 12 month community consultation process to be facilitated by the Minister for Energy and Resources, Nicholas Kotsiras. A report on the findings of this 2-stage consultation process is planned to be released in July 2015.
Ban on fracking to remain
Dr Napthine also announced that the ban on hydraulic fracking would remain in place until at least July 2015 while the consultation process was ongoing. According to Dr Napthine, a key factor to be considered by the Victorian Government in relation to the development of the onshore gas industry is the impact to the water table and aquifers, and the Victorian Government would not support onshore gas production until there is scientific evidence showing that the industry would not risk Victoria’s assets.
The bottom line
While the Taskforce’s recommendations clearly support the development of the onshore gas industry in Victoria, it is unlikely that there will be any movement towards the industry’s development until at least the second half of 2015.