Plans by AWE to carry out hydraulic fracturing in the Mid West have suffered a blow after locals launched an unprecedented bid to stop the company.
In a motion passed unanimously on Wednesday night, Shire of Coorow councillors voted that all fracking activity in the area be suspended pending a public inquiry. The decision comes amid plans by Sydney-based AWE to drill the Drover-1 well within the shire to test the unconventional gas prospect.
According to the motion, which was prompted by feedback from shire residents, a full environmental assessment was needed to determine the effects of fracking on the area's aquifers.
It also called for health and agricultural assessments to be carried out before the shire could back any fracking proposal.
The Drover-1 well's proposed location is on pastoral land next to a national park and above groundwater resources, sparking fears from green groups and locals that fracking could contaminate the latter.
AWE, which is drilling for shale and tight gas with the nearby Senecio-3 well, already has approvals to begin "exploratory" operations at Drover.
Although the Coorow shire motion is understood to have no legal implication, it comes as a setback for AWE, which has been fighting an increasingly vocal campaign against fracking.
Opposition to the practice in the Mid West is growing, with Nationals MLC Paul Brown joining the fray by accusing the State's environmental watchdog of not properly scrutinising proposals.
AWE acknowledged concern about the effects of fracking but said it had a track record of working with communities.
"For more than 50 years, AWE (and predecessor companies) have successfully and safely drilled more than 80 wells in the onshore Perth Basin, a number of which have been hydraulically fractured, with no adverse impacts detected on aquifers," AWE said. "Many of the recommendations supported by the Shire of Coorow have already been undertaken, and this will be discussed further with the community as part of AWE's stakeholder engagement program."