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Shell Australia attacks Victoria’s ban on fracking, gas moratorium

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John Dagge, Herald Sun: August 30, 2016 

SHELL Australia has blasted the Victorian government’s move to permanently ban fracking and extend a moratorium on conventional onshore gas development, saying it will result in higher energy bills.

Chairman Andrew Smith has also warned the decision will cost the state investment dollars and jobs and make it more difficult for manufacturers, already under pressure, to stay in business.

“Every Victorian household and business will now pay higher energy prices moving forward,” Mr Smith said.

“In the state that depends most on gas, this means less jobs, lower growth, less investment and a higher cost of living.”

The government has decided to permanently ban fracking and extend a moratorium on conventional onshore development, including that which does not use the controversial extraction technique, until mid 2020.

The move follows years of pushback from rural communities and environmentalists and makes Victoria the first state in Australia to permanently ban fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water, sand and chemical additives at high pressure underground to break up rocks and release gas and oil trapped in them.

Mr Smith said the government’s decision had been made “without any scientific basis” and put the long-term viability of Victoria’s affordable energy supply under a cloud.

“It will ripple through the state’s economy and impact on all large gas users including manufacturers, fertiliser producers and the construction industry,” he said.

“Bad policy if often rewritten, but once manufacturing jobs are lost they rarely come back.”

Shell Australia is the local subsidiary of European petroleum goliath Royal Dutch Shell.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said the government was playing politics with the state’s energy supply.

“There is no environmental reason to prohibit onshore gas development in Victoria,” chief executive Malcolm Roberts said.

“The technology is proven and safe. In the case of conventional gas Victoria has had decades of safe local production.”

Australian Workers’ Union Victorian secretary Ben Davis said while the move to ban fracking was sensible, it did not make sense to continue to block the conventional onshore gas industry.

“Given the declining state of our manufacturing sector, we need conventional gas to continue as an industry in its own right and as a reliable and affordable source of energy,” he said.

“We cannot keep on closing doors and expect jobs of magically appear from nowhere.”

The Victorian Farmers Federation welcomed the bans, saying it was a win for the agriculture sector.

“Victoria has precious groundwater reserves and without hard scientific evidence that show the risks of onshore gas development can be properly managed, those reserves shouldn’t be put at risk,” land management chairman Gerald Leach said.

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