Community Reply to Govt Response for EDIC Recommendations
The Coalition Government is committed to developing the efficient and responsible operation of
Victoria’s Earth Resources sector as a driver of the state’s ongoing economic growth and job creation.
We all have a role to play in delivering this growth responsibly—industry, communities and all three levels of government—and this shared responsibility is reflected in this response.
First lets define the term community.
For us who live in rural Victoria the community is the immediate area that we live in.
From a regional perspective, we talk collaboratively about the small communities that make up and
contribute to the regional centres of rural Victoria.
But from a State Government view point, the community is the collective whole (the broader community)
In saying this, it removes the identity and significance of any one rural community which in turn lessens
their importance for the role that they will play in the development of Victoria's Earth Resources sector is
one of sacrifice for the greater good of the state.
But in all consultations with the Government, they have not been able to show the planning, the
protection, responsible management and the science on how these communities or environment
will not be negatively impacted.
So, what is the responsibility of government to those communities that will bear the full brunt of
mining expansion into populated areas when there is no net benefit to the communities?
We can say that because both state Labor and the Coalition Government and, in particular, your current National Gippsland Pollies are failing us badly.
Where is their support to make government close the gaps between the two vital pieces of Legislation that are supposed to regulate the onshore gas industry. The MRSD Act and the Petroleum Act & Regulations are totally inadequate with the Petroleum Act absolutely woeful.
Yet, the govt don't want us to known that the current activity of Tight Gas Fracking in Gippsland is about to recommence under the poor Petroleum legislative requirements with the local Seaspray community not having any right whatsoever to any information.
And nowhere in this EDIC response does government note that there is a major deficiency in the reform process because this documents has failed to differentiate between the different forms of unconventional gas mining and that they are legislated differently yet all still need to be fracked.
As such, this document response is already outdated, already inadequate, already ineffectual to deliver growth responsibly, to instil confidence in the community and to deliver the appropriate protections to those communities that will be sacrificed for the greater good of the state.
The limitations of the EDIC Greenfields Inquiry is that it only pertains to coal, CSG and the extractive industry whilst ignoring all forms of unconventional gas mining and the difference in their respective acts of legislation that regulate the mineral, gas and oil industry.
So, where is the provision to include reform of the Petroleum legislation to give it commonality with the MRSD Act and when and where is the provision to include Shale and Tight gas extraction given they both need hydraulic fracturing or were they not going to bother.
Again, this comment is appropriate as the Government has been sitting on these recommendations for a year and if COM can be acutely aware of the impacts of Shale and Tight Gas, then you would assume that those administering the promotion of onshore unconventional gas expansion would also.
Evidence by this EDIC response and the National Harmonised Framework [only] on CSG is clearly facilitating the rapid development of unconventional gas rather than addressing first the obvious shortfalls of both the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 MRSD and, particularly, the Petroleum Act 1998 & Regulations 2011.
A harmonised set of regulatory requirements for any mineral or gas extraction should guide industry as a whole not what is currently espoused limiting the concerns to just CSG, water, chemicals and well integrity and the application of best practice.
Unfortunately, best practice is determined by costs with industry determining what is best practice without due consideration to the science or cumulative impacts.
Additionally, the existing gaps in regulation should be closed so that the regulatory mechanisms fully protect health, communities, water, air, climate, biodiversity, local economies and wellbeing.
Can Government give confidence to the communities that they know what they are doing? That has been a dismal failure with the State Government refusing to answer COM's list of concerns > go to IESC bioregional assessment new page 6/9/13. They are still not giving us any confidence that they are even considering Gippsland's existing subsidence issues from energy resource extraction.
Unconventional gas production requires many hundreds of wells to achieve economic gas production yet industry like to paint the picture that a well will be no different than a water bore, be only fracked once so won't impact on water supplies -
- Regulators are already struggling to keep up with auditing and monitoring of existing industries with communities currently acting as the watchdogs and real concerns with regulatory agencies as to their integrity and effectiveness.
- There is a fundamental lack of transparency and accountability from the Government with two most recent reports (2012) for Gippsland concerning seismology and subsidence refusing to be released to the public by the Dept of Environments and Primary Industries and,
- Where is provision made for changes in policy in response to emerging science regarding rates of fugitive emissions from unconventional gas production in Australia.
The concept of co-existence between gas activities and other agricultural land known as multiple and sequential land use needs to be clarified as a concept does not mean it provides economic surety to the landowner and flow on security to those businesses that service the agricultural industry.
Furthermore, cumulative impacts of existing and proposed gas exploitation activities on rural communities also do not factor the consequential economic devaluing of the land, the long term depletion of groundwater and drawdown in already stressed zones and land degradation from pollutant contaminate accumulation.
To identify CSG as sustainable is not meant to ensure its operational practises as a benefit to the environmental but rather the takeover of more prime land to maintain and retain the industry which would most likely have fool proof clauses written into contracts requiring unreasonable export supply commitments that tie up any successive government.
CSG and all other gas activity will have an impact on the natural environment in which they occur. But to say that by applying best practise will minimise impacts is ignorant to the fact that there is no current independent baseline data to determine the amount of impact against.
Also, environmental impacts as described in environmental impact assessments do not reflect the final reality, as projects increase in size or work variations are added with no community input. Furthermore, where will be the provision to determine how these assessments will be adequate? This goes to the point that operational monitoring and auditing for compliance and consequent enforcement has been seriously lacking in the past (read Auditor Generals report)
So, to say that the implementation of the National Harmonised Framework (NHF) outcomes will address community concern regarding environmental impacts and well infrastructure is again ignorant to the limitations of the NHF terms of reference and the notion that best practise will be the precursor to ensuring trust, integrity and confidence in both government as regulator and manager and industry as the operator.
The Regulatory framework should also ensure that where incidents do occur, (now or in decades to come) that there is sufficient funding and resources to contain leaks and remediate failures.
In regards to securing future land for mining development the Minister will, be able to use his discretionary powers under section 35(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987. The irony is that mining is exempt from the objectives of the Planning & Environment Act and has priority over native vegetation, heritage and cultural values. But what is the most damning of all is that our prime agricultural land has no net worth in comparison to mining potential so the Government will seek to amend the MRSDA to require the Minister for Energy and Resources to take into account mineral values before making a decision to exempt land from exploration or mining licences.
Strategic Land Use plans will be implemented only to protect resource potential yet the critical elements that contribute to the viability of agricultural land yield no worth.
And be aware that to challenge any decisions through VCAT has just gone through a reform process with major price hikes making appealing a decision cost prohibited. Seems. there has been a concerted effort by government to introduce reform but for whose benefit.
COM has serious concerns that the streamlining of the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process will only serve to advantage industry whilst limiting the opportunity for genuine environmental management particularly with the new timeframes for work approvals
and community input. This is now apparent as the government will not be taking on the full recommendations of the ENRC Inquiry ( which were good) but rather combining with the VCEC report recommendations (2012) which is about reducing the regulatory burdens.
How many inquiries can you have in relation to reform of resource legislation and then it takes the Coalition Government to pick the weakest.
For this point it is particularly important that there be a focus that protective rehabilitation bonds are needed to guarantee coverage for potential company insolvency and inability to cover rehabilitation costs to prevent taxpayers incurring an economic burden.
And wouldn't it be great if Government could legislate that the onus be shifted to the licence holder to disprove that they didn't cause contamination rather that the landholder to prove that they did.
That wouldn't happen though because they haven't got the balls.
In 2012 the Government, in its wisdom created the Earth Resources Ministerial Advisory Council (ERMAC) to review appropriate aspects of the compensation agreement process under the MRSDA. It has one token community representative and the VFF which has lost huge creditability in the community given their support of the industry as a way for individual farmers to profit rather than the health of the area. This committee is a joke and the two aspects of consultation and compensation discussion were totally deficient in appropriate legislative weight but will, at least, enable the government to say that it consulted with the community.
The community cannot be assured that all of the red tape cutting will ensure protection for local communities and their economies as the current regulatory frameworks ( MRSDA, with the Petroleum Act not even included) do not even work effectively so how can reduced regulatory checks work better.
This list has been updated 2 times without even a comment from govt. so how much do they care or consult with the communities?
Our Gippsland Pollies