Bill Johnston tells frackers to get community onside

According to Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston, the onshore oil and gas industry needs to get the community behind fracking.

Bill Johnston tells frackers to get community onside
Source: APPEA

This story was originally published in The West Australian on 25 May 2017 with the headline "Industry told to get community behind fracking." © Peter Milne.

The onshore oil and gas industry needs to get the community behind fracking, the future of which in the State depends on the outcome of a McGowan Government inquiry, according to Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.

Mr Johnston maintained Labor’s stance that there would be no hydraulic fracturing in the South West, the Peel region or Perth. Fracking in the rest of the State was on hold until the broad-based scientific inquiry, which would include the impact of climate change, was complete.

He told the Petroleum Club of WA yesterday the Government appreciated the importance of the onshore gas industry but to succeed it needed a proper social licence.

Mr Johnston gave an example as an impact of social media his brother, a NSW farmer who posted support for the Lock the Gate campaign on Facebook. “It drives me crazy,” he said.

The opponents of onshore oil and gas extraction were not telling the whole story, he said. In the past the resource sector could rely on support from farmers.

“We won’t allow fracking to take place in WA until we’ve conducted that broad-ranging inquiry . . . so stakeholders have gotten their opportunity to have their say and can see it has been done in an open and transparent way,” he said.

Piers Verstegen, director of the Conservation Council of WA, said fracking could have serious irreversible impacts on the environment, particularly on groundwater.

The oil and gas industry had failed to make the case that fracking was necessary for WA, where there is sufficient gas supply from offshore fields and access to world-class renewable energy resources, he said.

Stedman Ellis, WA chief operating officer for oil and industry group APPEA, opposed the Government’s review.

“The WA Parliament has already held a two-year inquiry which concluded fracking posed a negligible risk,” he said.

Mr Ellis said if there must be another inquiry it should be short, focused on facts and report back in a matter of months.

Much of the opposition to fracking was from people ideologically opposed to natural gas who spread misinformation and ignored the fact that fracking had been performed safely for decades, he said.