Seaspray locals condemn fracking ban loophole

Photo: Gasfield free Seaspray/Facebook

Seaspray locals have pledged to resist resources company Lakes Oil, which has applied to undertake horizontal drilling for tight gas near the Victorian town in East Gippsland.

The state government has a moratorium on fracking — hydraulic fracturing underground to release gas held in rocks or coal seams. But it does not apply to horizontal drilling, which in some cases can be enough to release gas from the rock.

At a February 7 protest at the entrance to the drilling site, Seaspray resident Gary Evison said: “We reject that the moratorium, as it currently stands, will protect us as Lakes Oil moves ahead with plans to conduct further drilling.

“We are taking a pledge today as a community to do whatever it takes to protect Seaspray, even if it means conducting peaceful direct action and risking arrest.”

Local beef farmer Tracey McGuiness said: “Our region produces crops, dairy and beef. Tourism is also a large industry here. Our high biodiversity must be protected. We do not want our land devalued, and our soil and waterways polluted.”

Members of the Gasfield Free Seaspray group invited deputy premier Peter Ryan, a National Party MLC who holds a seat in the area, to meet with them on February 7.

“Seaspray is facing the very direct threat of further drilling that will jeopardise all the things the premier made a commitment to protect.”

Premier Denis Napthine said on November 21: “We will never, ever allow onshore gas, if it jeopardises our underground water, if it jeopardises our environment, and if it jeopardises our food and agricultural production.”

Alquier said the moratorium “needs to be extended to cover all exploration work, including horizontal drilling, seismic testing, drill site preparation, flaring off, and continual approaches by mining companies to pressure landowners to sign access agreements”.

“The Nationals are meant to represent rural communities like Seaspray yet they continue to ignore the farmers that have voted for them for generations.”

She said the state government is amending the Summary Offences Act to raise police powers to move on protesters, which could mean “farmers would be moved on from farm gates for defending their water, their livelihoods and the food security of all Victorians”.

[For more information visit Gasfield Free Seaspray on Facebook.]