Labor has promised to close a loophole that allowed shale gas fracking to escape federal oversight, the Australian Conservation Foundation said in welcoming the policy.

“This is an important step to make sure the Federal Government has the ability to protect water – and the communities and landscapes that rely on it – when it is at risk from fracking for shale and tight gas,” said ACF’s campaigns director Paul Sinclair.

“When mining companies extract shale gas by fracking, they inject massive quantities of water and chemicals into underground aquifers, polluting precious artesian water.

“The Gillard government, with independent MP Tony Windsor, introduced a water trigger to the federal environment law to protect water from coal seam gas fracking.

“But fracking for shale and tight gas remains exempt from this legislation, even though these other forms of unconventional gas extraction do virtually the same sort of damage to the environment as CSG fracking does,” Dr Sinclair said.

“So while communities and landscapes that were vulnerable to CSG exploration were covered, other communities, such as those in the Kimberley in WA and on South Australia’s limestone coast, which are at risk from shale fracking, were left unprotected.

“Labor’s plan would level the playing field somewhat, so all fracking proposals would be assessed nationally, not only CSG proposals.

“Labor’s commitment would provide a federal check on state governments, which are not impartial judges of these proposals, as they usual receive mining royalties.

“ACF welcomes this commitment by Labor to close a gaping loophole and extend federal oversight to cover many previously vulnerable communities and landscapes.”

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