The Victorian Greens will vote against proposed legislation that would lift the state’s moratorium on new gas exploration, labelling the plan a “climate disaster”.
The Victorian parliament will vote on the state Labor government’s Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill this week, as it moves to lift a long-standing ban on conventional gas exploration.
In slamming the proposal, the Victorian Greens said that the Andrew’s government had significantly underestimated the environmental impact that an expansion of the gas industry would cause, and that the government was better off prioritising support towards growing the renewable energy sector.
Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell said that the Andrews government was missing an opportunity to support further growth of the state’s renewable energy sector, at a time when economic stimulus in response to Covid-19 was high priority.
“The Premier has gotten the maths wrong on this one. If we open up Victoria to onshore gas drilling we’ll damage our environment and the climate for decades to come,” Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell said.
“A good government would listen to scientists and communities by leaving gas in the ground, and throwing everything it has at building a safe and renewable-powered future.”
“The Labor Government announced gas drilling under the cover of COVID-19, hoping Victorians wouldn’t notice. But we do notice, and we oppose Labor’s plan to drill across Victoria for polluting dangerous gas,” Sandell added.
The Victorian Greens hold three seats in the Victorian lower house, but do not hold enough seats to control the balance of power. With Labor holding an outright majority, the bill is expected to pass without significant issues.
The Andrew’s government agreed to lift the gas exploration moratorium following the release of an assessment undertaken by the Geological Survey of Victoria, which concluded the environmental impacts of gas extraction would be manageable.
The Victorian government cited an analysis produced by Ernst and Young that estimated that a return to gas exploration in the state would create as many as 6,400 new jobs, and the government hopes that lifting the gas exploration ban will help boost economic activity in the state.
“The introduction of this Bill is supported by the scientific evidence presented by the Victorian Gas Program (the Program). The $40 million science-led Program has assessed the potential for onshore conventional and offshore gas in the Otway and Gippsland geological basins,” Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said while introducing the bill to the parliament in March.
“The Program’s geoscientific studies have concluded that there are likely to be onshore conventional gas resources of commercial interest in south-west Victoria and Gippsland, with potential to support regional jobs and enhance economic development over a number of years.”
“Environmental studies indicate that securing local gas supply for Victorians will not come at the cost of the state’s ground water supplies, agricultural industries, farming’s clean green reputation, or the environment,” Pallas added.
The assessment was criticised for ignoring the greenhouse gas emissions that will be produced from the gas extracted through new onshore gas wells, as well as substantially overestimating the number of new jobs that the industry was capable of creating in the state.
However, another analysis produced by the Victorian government found that the number of new jobs created by the gas industry could amount to just a few hundred full time positions.
While the Victorian government has attracted praise for leadership shown in supporting the growth of its renewable energy sector, it has frustrated some environmental groups by also looking to prop up parts of the state’s fossil fuel sectors.
On Tuesday, the Victorian government announced that it would allocate $600,000 in funding to support further research into how industry can continue to utilise the state’s brown coal resources.
According to a media release from Victorian resources minister Jaclyn Symes, the funding, provided to Australian Carbon Innovation, will be put towards research into “high-value products from brown coal including hydrogen, carbon fibres, graphenes and fertilisers.”
The Victorian government will, however, continue to ban fracking in the state, after agreeing to enshrine the prohibition in the state’s constitution.
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