The State Government has thrown its full support behind the development of a fracking industry in WA despite environmental concerns about the use of the controversial technique to unlock billions of dollars worth of shale gas.
Mining and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion gave the industry the strongest possible endorsement after a green group accused the Government of putting the Broome water supply at risk of contamination.
Environs Kimberley raised the alarm after Goshawk Energy was issued a petroleum exploration permit for a vast area that includes the Broome water supply reserve and the site of a bitter protest over the James Price Point development.
Mr Marmion said he was aware of community concerns about fracking and WA was working on the world's best regulatory standards.
He said fracking provided a huge opportunity to create long-term jobs and economic activity, with significant commercial production just five to 10 years away.
"I strongly believe we can achieve this without compromising the environment or safety," he said.
Mr Marmion, a former environment minister, blasted sections of the environmental lobby for what he said were alarmist tactics and pseudo-science to argue against fracking.
"They need to be honest and up-front about their real objective, it is not about fracking," he said. "It is to prevent natural gas becoming a major fuel source for the generation of energy as opposed to renewable energy."
Initial estimates are that WA holds up to 280 trillion cubic feet of natural gas within shale and tight rocks - enough to supply the State for about 500 years. By comparison, the North West Shelf project operated by Woodside Petroleum has remaining reserves of about 17tcf.
Environs Kimberley executive director Martin Pritchard said a town's water supply was not the right place to experiment with this risky technology. He called on Premier Colin Barnett to intervene.
The group is also seeking a moratorium on fracking in the entire Canning Basin until "comprehensive, rigorous and independent research has been conducted into the processes and their impacts on people, water and the environment".
"Fracking is a relatively new technology in Australia," Mr Pritchard said. "It is being rushed into operation without adequate safeguards."
Mr Marmion said Environs Kimberley had lifted one line out of a 290-page report that also said: "The likelihood of properly injected fracturing liquid reaching sources of drinking water through fractures is remote where there is more than 600m separation between the drinking water sources and the producing zone."