The Baw Baw Shire Council has indicated it will develop a coal seam gas policy soon, but action has been slow while community concern grows.
Mining company ECI International was granted permits to explore for gas in the Baw Baw Shire area in April last year, which could see exploration for coal seam gas around Warragul and Drouin.
Coal seam gas is a form of natural gas found in coal deposits.
Baw Baw Shire CEO Helen Anstis said in an email the issue of whether to lobby for or against coal seam gas exploration and mining will be introduced to the council in coming months.
“Unfortunately BBSC (Baw Baw Shire Council) hasn’t had any discussions regarding coal seam gas,” Ms Anstis said.
“I have been in discussion with DPI on the topic of ‘earth resources’ in BBSC and I hope to brief the council on the issues in the coming months.”The DPI’s definition of earth resources includes coal seam gas, mineral sands, coal, and other non-renewable energy and metal resources.
Nearby Bass Coast Shire Council passed a motion earlier this year calling for the denial of an exploration license to a company looking for coal seam gas in the area.
The Colac Otway Shire Council has also passed a motion calling on the State Government to ban coal seam gas exploration.
It is unclear what the Baw Baw Shire’s policy will be, and a majority of councillors said they have not considered a policy.
“DPI [will] provide… advice, then the Council can form a policy position which the organisation can implement,” Ms Anstis said.
Darnum landholder Ian Honey is calling for the council to follow Bass Coast’s decision, encouraging others to pay attention to the issue.
“I don’t think we can afford to be passive much longer,” Mr Honey said.
“I’d be very surprised if anybody around here wants coal seam gas.”
Mr Honey’s land sits above an aquifer, which provides water for livestock and gardening.
“I’m not a scientist, but it’s obvious to me that if you frack into an aquifer and you put chemicals in there, it’s going to filter through.”
“People keep talking about the agricultural value of this area in close proximity to Melbourne… and we’ve got to think about all these things.”
Fracking is a gas extraction process which involves fracturing a coal seam using pressurised water and chemicals, releasing coal seam gas and water.
Exploration licenses have been granted to search for the gas, however no mining permits have been granted in Victoria.
A community meeting about coal seam gas hosted in Longwarry recently attracted over more than 80 locals, including three Baw Baw Shire councillors. But councillors are yet to have any community members directly approach them about coal seam gas.
Councillor David Balfour, who attended the meeting, said a broad policy might not be in the community’s interest.
“I believe it’s up to the individual landholder,” Cr Balfour said.
“Some people might like it, other[s] might not.”
But Cr Balfour joined with other councillors in saying he is yet to decide his position.
It is not known how much gas is stored in Victoria’s coal deposits.
Also published in The Warragul Citizen Issue 5, released TODAY.
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