GLOUCESTER Shire Council is frustrated and angry that the Minister for Resources and Energy has renewed PEL 285 and approved the fracking of the Waukivory Pilot Wells adjacent to Fairbairns Road in Gloucester.
In a statement released this week, deputy mayor, Cr Frank Hooke said Gloucester council believes that any decision should follow the science. The fracking of any wells should not occur until the following fundamental research programs have been completed:
o The federal government's Bio regional Assessment
o AGL's numerical model to enable assessment of water impacts
o Council's water study's coordination report
"Council acknowledges that the Waukivory Pilot is part of AGL's research program, but has not been given compelling reasons as to why the test wells need to be located where now proposed," Mr Hooke said.
"The State government affirms that the two kilometre setback it has mandated for new gas wells cannot be applied retrospectively to AGL at Gloucester. Yet in changing the Mining SEPP they have shown that the rules can be retrospectively changed to get a better outcome for AGL.
"Given that the approval is not a consent to move into production, and is ahead of the water study results, council believes the test wells should be set back the two kilometres now mandated by the government.
"Council has also been concerned with the processes around these decisions. The government gives strong messages about the need for effective community consultation and engagement but requires and relies on AGL to do the consultation. Council does not agree with this.
"AGL has shown an ability to 'spin' their story, but for true consultation to occur there simply needs to be clear information to the community, and an opportunity for meaningful input back to the government before significant decisions are made," Cr Hooke said.
A spokeswoman for AGL said AGL has been consulting with Glou cester Shire Council for many years and will continue to do so. "We recently funded a full time in-house water scientist to oversee a number of water studies which has included the council's recent report on suggested re-use for produced water from AGL's Gloucester Gas Project. In addition to this, AGL meets with councillors at the monthly Gloucester Dialogue where they have been taken through our plans, studies, data and gas project updates for months now.
"In fact, two things the council requested AGL has delivered - a plan for a desalination plant and funding the water scientist," the spokeswoman said.
"In regards to the wells, AGL had approval for the Gloucester Gas Project prior to the two kilometre residential exclusion zone being introduced. These wells were drilled two years ago."
Cr Hooke said the government has also delegated responsibilities to agencies such as the Office of Coal Seam Gas and the Planning Assessment Commission, to make decisions on its behalf, but then has not allowed them to explain those decisions.
"Council is also concerned the government has extended the Petroleum Exploration Licence for six years based on the 'good practices' of AGL. There was no consultation with council or engagement with the community about this.
"Council has recently agreed to participate in the Gloucester Dialogue process, which is seeking to ensure an exchange of information between the parties involved. The decision on extending the PEL was not discussed in this forum before the decision was made.
"Council is genuinely concerned that this project is continuing to build conflict, confusion and tension in the community. There is an on-going loss of faith in the planning process, where ordinary people feel they cannot compete for influence with the large corporations.
"Council will continue to work productively with all stakeholders in an endeavour to get the best outcome for Gloucester."