The state government awarded gas exploration permit EP496 to Bunbury Energy which will allow the company to explore for conventional gas in the region.
Department of Mines and Petroleum industry regulation and safety executive director Jeff Haworth said the title had a condition on it which prohibited the use of fracking in the program.
“Bunbury Energy has publicly announced it is not looking for shale or tight gas,” he said.
“The title will allow Bunbury Energy to apply to conduct exploration activities, the first of which was to conduct a seismic survey along road verges to identify possible conventional gas traps.
“Depending on what and where the activity is, further approvals may be required from other government agencies including the local government.”
Mr Haworth said once the results of the seismic survey were known, potential resources may be identified under private property.
“If this is the case, the operator is required to have an agreement with the landowner before entering the land,” he said.
Gasfield Free South West Alliance co-convenor and Boyanup landholder Kathy Thomson said the granting of the permit was a kick in the guts to the people of the South West.
“The government promised us a fracking ban before the state election. We understood the promise meant we would be protected from encroachment by the invasive onshore gas industry,” she said.
"Instead, the government has granted a new gas exploration permit covering our area.”
Ms Thomson said the decision by the government to grant the permit was a slap in the face to those communities in the region which declared themselves gas field free.
“The government is ignoring our right to protect our land, water, health and agriculture into the future,” she said.
“We are disappointed and angry that our concerns have been ignored and our rights railroaded.
“We still don’t have any right to say no to gas companies coming on our land to drill for gas.”
Bunbury Energy chief executive officer Wal Muir said if they looked at any investigations on private land the earliest would be around 2019 and they must work with the landholder to obtain permission.
Mr Muir said it was an extensive process and Bunbury Energy would follow the framework set by farming representative bodies and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
“Since 2015, Bunbury Energy has had around 70 meetings with various stakeholders in the area including councils, state and federal politicians, local industry groups, attended open days in the community and interviews with local media,” he said.
“The response has been positive and one of genuine interest.
“We have approached all discussions and meetings with the intention to be up-front, clear and open about our gas exploration plans – and they do not involve fracking – and to explain why we think a local supply of natural gas would benefit the South West region and how we would like to work with the community to get this done.”
Mr Muir said the grant of exploration permit EP- 496, was subject to WA’s stringent regulations and standards, was an important step forward in the search for an independent, reliable domestic gas source to power households and industry in the South West.
He said the permit would only allow Bunbury Energy to undertake exploration tasks, once those tasks were individually approved by the Department of Mines.
“This will include the collection of seismic data along existing roads which we are aiming to take place in mid to late 2018,” he said.
“In the future, we may investigate the collection of seismic data on private property.”
“Government regulations preclude any exploration drilling with two kilometres of towns and semi-urban subdivisions.
“We want to ensure this is understood as we genuinely don’t want people to be worried about something that will never happen. Towns will be avoided and must be by law.”