THE AUSTRALIAN Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) says an interim report from a Senate committee on unconventional gas mining has failed to support what it says are attacks on the industry.
The committee, established in November 2015, had been due to release a final report later this year but instead released the interim report in early May due to the election.
Chaired by independent senator Glenn Lazarus and made up of Liberal senators David Johnston and Joanna Lindgren, Labor senators Joseph Ludwig and Anne McEwen and Greens senator Larissa Waters, the committee failed to reach a unanimous series of recommendations.
In their comments, the Liberal senators said that state and territory legal frameworks already had the constitutional jurisdiction to manage the industry, and noted that the commonwealth government was already working with them.
This sentiment was echoed by the Labor senators, who said there was comprehensive legislation that existed across the states and territories to regulate the industry.
“Opposition senators also highlight that regular compensation payments which have been paid to landholders with unconventional gas mining on their land have allowed farmers to supplement their incomes and help to weather difficult conditions, including drought.”
Senators Ludwig and McEwen also stated that the majority of the evidence presented to the committee was anecdotal in nature and presented general views, adding that they had heard little factual or scientific evidence to support claims of negative environmental impact.
With regards to health, the senators said the committee “has not been able to establish whether the symptoms presented to the committee had been clearly caused by unconventional gas mining activity in the area.”
APPEA chief executive Malcolm Roberts seized on these claims, saying the inquiry did not “identify any factual or scientific evidence to support the fear campaign peddled by industry opponents.”
“Despite Senator Lazarus’ best efforts to enflame the debate, the committee report contains no evidence to support his headline-seeking attacks on the industry,” he said.
“Most Senators acknowledge that the claims made against the industry are flimsy and anecdotal. They also acknowledge the industry’s positive economic contribution.”
Senator Lazarus released his own list of 18 recommendations in his comments at the conclusion of the inquiry, which he said had heard from many families impacted by coal seam gas mining.
“Based on the Inquiry I have made recommendations which include but are not limited to: the need for a Royal Commission into the human impact of unconventional gas mining, the appointment of an unconventional gas mining commissioner and a resources ombudsman as well as a national strategy to manage the conduct of unconventional gas mining in Australia,” he said.
“Additionally, the Commonwealth government needs to work with all states and territories to immediately give all landholders the right to refuse mining on their land.”
Other recommendations included establishing community legal services, dedicated health services and a national testing and research centre dedicated to dealing with issues arising from unconventional gas mining projects.
His calls for legal reform were welcomed by Senator Waters, who said landholders should be given the legal right to refuse the development of unconventional gas on their land.