The Victorian Government has announced a moratorium on all hydraulic fracturing as part of a suite of reforms aimed at providing greater certainty on the impacts of the coal seam gas industry’s effects on the environment.


The reforms also see a total ban on the use of BTEX chemicals, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, in fraccing practices in Victoria.


The announcement comes as the State and Commonwealth Governments continue to work on the formation of a new National Harmonised Framework for the coal seam gas industry. State and Federal Energy and Resources Ministers are expected to consider the framework in December.


The national framework process is considering leading practice approaches to the regulation of the coal seam gas industry, including water management and monitoring, well design and integrity, hydraulic fracturing, chemical use and industry and community engagement.


"In anticipation of new standards being considered through this reform process, the Coalition Government has decided to place a hold on approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing as part of onshore gas exploration," Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien said.


This hold will remain in place until the national framework proposals have been presented, and then considered and responded to by the Coalition Government.


"This approach will help to avoid a situation where applications for hydraulic fracturing works might be approved now, only to be inconsistent with new standards to be set in the near future.”


Mr O’Brien confirmed the reforms do not affect exploration activity approved under existing licenses that do not involve fraccing.


The Minerals Council of Australia described the announcement as ‘profoundly disappointing’, saying that granting exploration licenses should be based on scientific assessment and best practice rather than external pressures.


The Council also expressed its concern over the timeframe required to develop the national framework, saying that by implementing the moratorium, Victoria is ‘turning its back’ on an industry that would generate thousands of jobs and be a reliable source of taxable revenue.


Fraccing was last undertaken in Victoria in 2009, with no current fraccing work being undertaken in the State.