Australia: Junior company looking at grounds for lawsuit over Victoria unconventional gas ban. Newly elected Northern Territory Labor holds firm on fracking moratorium; Did they win the election because they promised a moratorium?

Australian explorer looking at grounds for lawsuit over fracking ban by Sonali Paul, August 31, 2016, Reuters

Lakes Oil, a junior oil and gas explorer in Australia, is considering the grounds it may have for suing Victoria state, after the government there permanently banned fracking and extended a ban on onshore conventional gas drilling to 2020.

Lakes Oil shares sank as much as 50 percent on Wednesday in their first trading since the fracking ban was announced, and the stock was the fourth most active on the Australian exchange.

The move by the state in the country’s southeast means Lakes will not be able to go ahead with two tentative deals lined up in 2014 to supply gas from its Wombat onshore conventional gas field to U.S. giant Dow Chemical Co and Australian food manufacturer Simplot.

“What the government’s done is just unbelievable. It’s unprecedented,” Lakes Oil Chief Executive Roland Sleeman told Reuters in an interview.

Sleeman would not say whether his company would seek compensation from Victoria, but said it was a “really relevant question”.

“I invite you to have a look at what has happened elsewhere. The key example is Metgasco in New South Wales – not exactly the same situation – but ultimately it was compensated by government,” he said.

New South Wales agreed last year to pay Metgasco A$25 million ($19 million) to buy back three exploration licenses after suspending approval for drilling at a promising coal seam gas site due to public protests.

Victoria-focused Lakes was also considering a range of commercial options, Sleeman said, including expanding into South Australia state, which is eager to promote gas development.

Lakes could merge with another company, buy assets that larger players are spinning off, or in an extreme case, fold, he also said.

Lakes Oil has spent at least A$80 million to prove up gas resources on its Victorian acreage, Sleeman said. [Emphasis added]

NT Labor holds firm on fracking moratorium by Neda Vanovac, August 30, 2016,
Australian Associated Press in

The incoming Northern Territory Labor government has maintained its election promise to have a moratorium on fracking.

On Tuesday it was announced the Victorian Labor government will permanently ban fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, prohibiting the exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas. Until the legislation passes, an existing moratorium on onshore unconventional gas exploration and development will remain in place.

In the NT, the Labor government ran on an election platform of putting in place an indefinite moratorium on fracking for shale gas amidst growing community concern about negative environmental and health impacts.

Labor says it was a decision made in the Territory for Territorians, and was not influenced by Victoria’s planned ban.

“The Territory Labor Government has been open and transparent about our fracking moratorium,” spokeswoman Natasha Fyles said in a statement to AAP.

She said Labor would hold community consultation and conduct a “comprehensive scientific investigation” into potential impacts.

That follows a CLP government inquiry report released last year, which found that “the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be managed effectively subject to the creation of a robust regulatory regime”.

Labor said that once it had completed its investigation , it would “either ban fracking or allow it under highly regulated and tightly prescribed areas”.

Member for Katherine Willem Westra van Holthe, who is locked in a tight battle to retain his seat, said fracking was a major issue in the rural area.

“A couple of years ago when I was still minister for mines and energy, I warned my colleagues in the government that fracking was going to be an enormous issue across the NT, and if we didn’t get our act together the same thing would happen to us that happened in Queensland; that is, the anti-fracking movement took hold, they managed to fill the airspace with their version of the truth, and of course the government was left running behind to try to catch up,” he told ABC local radio.

“We all swore that wouldn’t happen in the Territory, that we would make sure the people of the Territory knew all about the oil and gas industry and fracking, and the truth behind the issues.” [Emphasis added]

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