12 Oct 2017

Bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in Tasmania fails

By Nicole Besgrove, Claire Smith

A Bill proposing to amend the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in Tasmania fails in the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

On 13 September 2017 the Mineral Resources Development (Hydraulic Fracturing) Amendment Bill 2015, which was tabled by the Greens on 19 March 2015 to prohibit the use of hydraulic fracturing in all exploration activities for hydrocarbons, extraction, development and production stages of a hydrocarbon resource projects, was negatived by the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

Fracking moratoriums and review

In 2014 the Tasmanian Government imposed a temporary 12 month moratorium to allow for a review into hydraulic fracturing in Tasmania. The Review was led by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and included collaboration with the Environment Protection Authority Division and Mineral Resources Tasmania in the Department of State Growth.

The Terms of Reference for the Review were:

  • To consider the potential use in Tasmania of hydraulic fracturing, including technology and processes, scientific evidence, as well as best practice environmental and safety standards.
  • To examine the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing in Tasmania, in particular potential impacts on agriculture, groundwater and the broader Tasmanian environment.
  • To consider developments and experiences in the regulation of hydraulic fracturing nationally and internationally.
  • To examine the robustness and operation of the current laws governing exploration licences and any future extraction licences in Tasmania, and consider whether any changes are required to improve protections for land users and industry engagement with landholders and local community.
  • To consider any other relevant matters, including economic costs and benefits.

On 25 February 2015, the Final Report "Review of hydraulic fracturing in Tasmania" was released, containing 17 findings for consideration by the Tasmanian Government, which of particular note included that:

  • further exploration by industry is required to establish the potential for any economically viable unconventional hydrocarbon resources in Tasmania;
  • the risks associated with the use of hydraulic fracking, particularly in the Tasmanian geology, are unknown due to the current lack of exploration for hydrocarbon resources to date;
  • however, industry regulation and best practice methodologies have evolved to the point where the risks associated with this technique can be managed;
  • Tasmania has the opportunity to continue to learn from other Australian jurisdictions where unconventional gas exploration currently occurs; and
  • there is scope in the current regulatory regime to require environmental assessment of a fracking proposal in addition to the current assessments that would apply under the regulatory regime for mineral resource development.

After consideration of the Final Report, submissions as well as industry and community representations, the Government released the Tasmanian Government Policy Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) 2015 on 26 February 2015 which extended the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Tasmanian for a further 5 years until March 2020. The Policy states that exploration activities for hydrocarbons in Tasmania are supported by the Government, but fracking will not be permitted in its exploration or in the development or production phases of a resource project.

What next?

It is understood from the Government's Policy that while it is highly unlikely that Tasmania has economically viable unconventional hydrocarbon resources in Tasmania, the only way to determine this is through further private sector exploration. Accordingly, the Government proposes that a review into the practice of fracking will be conducted before the moratorium expires via a process to be determined by the relevant Minister at the time.


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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.