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SA Divided on Fracking in the South East

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South Australia’s position on fracking has been widely debated this week after Opposition leader Steven Marshall announced a 10 year moratorium on exploration of unconventional gas in the state’s Limestone Coast.

Although the moratorium is only a proposal if Marshall’s Liberal government is elected at the 2018 state elections, residents of the South East are already celebrating, declaring the area “gasfield free”.

Deputy Chair of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, Merilyn Paxton told Flow FM that any fracking in the South East would be detrimental to the region.

“It’s so invasive, not just the practice, but the fact that it takes many many truckloads of water to be put into the wells, a lot of road extensions, traffic, crossing people’s farmland and devaluing their property,” she said.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis has declared Marshall’s moratorium as outrageous, labelling it an “act of industrial vandalism”.

He told Flow FM in a statement: “We have the best regulatory systems in the world in this country and those systems should be trusted to protect the environment, the agriculture industry and communities.

The Victorian decision [to ban fracking] is bad news for the National Electricity Market because new sources of supply of gas – which is used for electricity generation – will continue to be constrained.

Gas is a much cleaner form of generation than coal and is an essential component in the transition to a low carbon future, so this move is also bad news for the environment.”

Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Dan Van Holst Pellekaan agrees South Australia has “exceptionally good regulators” surrounding gas exploration and mining, but believes fracking in the South East could be an issue.

“In [the] electorate of Stuart, fracking has been going on for decades and there is no evidence of underground water contamination in approximately 1000 wells that have been fracked.

“But the people of the South East of course have underground water very very close to the surface and it is a critical resource for them,” he said.

The Shadow Minister also identifies gas exports as a major contributor to the South Australian economy and does not agree on a state ban, as Victoria has imposed.

While fracking looks set to continue in the north of the state, Steven Marshall’s proposed moratorium may be just enough to keep the South East fracking-free, for the moment at least.