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Theia Energy withdraws new drilling program after anti-fracking group referral to the EPA

Cain AndrewsBroome Advertiser
The Edgar Ranges, 150km south-east of Broome.
Camera IconThe Edgar Ranges, 150km south-east of Broome. Credit: Paul Bell

Theia Energy has abandoned its new onshore oil exploration program in the Kimberley after a local anti-fracking group referred the project to the Environmental Protection Authority.

It comes after Theia Energy withdrew its EPA proposal to frack in the Canning Basin in July.

The new oil exploration program was set to drill in the Edgar Ranges 150km south-east of Broome, just metres away from where Theia had planned to drill in its previous EPA proposal.

Suspicious of the program which looked strikingly similar to Theia Energy’s previous plans, Environs Kimberley referred the program to the EPA on September 2 under Section 38 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

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“They were going to start drilling without EPA approval because they claimed they weren’t going to frack the second time around, meaning technically it wouldn’t have needed EPA approval,” Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said.

“But our argument is that they would’ve had to frack to get anything meaningful from the test drilling.”

In a letter dated November 15 responding to Environs Kimberley, EPA chair Matthew Tonts said the requested Section 38 referral was not valid as Theia Energy had now abandoned the exploration program.

“The proposal referred to the EPA is not likely to be a ‘valid proposal’ because the proponent has confirmed that it has no intention to implement the proposal and has subsequently withdrawn the Environmental Plan,” he said.

Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said Theia’s decision to abandon the program was great news for the Kimberley.

“Opening up the region to onshore oil-and-gas fracking would be a climate-change disaster,” he said.

“This looked like an attempt to circumvent the EPA assessment process and avoid a lot of work, including public consultation, to get the well drilled before going on to seek approval to frack later,” he said.

“It appears that the referral of this new scaled-back drilling proposal to the EPA has led to Theia Energy withdrawing their drilling proposal, and they haven’t lodged any other plans.”

Theia Energy was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for print.

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