We Need Urgent Help with the EPBC. This Article Tells you Why, and How to Help.

What Is Happening and Why Is It Urgent?

Both APA and AGL have referred their projects for approval to the federal government under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (the EPBC). Based upon these referrals, and public comments and objections, the government will decide whether no further study is necessary (thereby giving the projects the go-ahead), or decide that significantly more study needs to be done before the projects can proceed.

We want to help you raise any objections to one or both of these referrals by making a public submission with your objections. The referrals themselves are available on the EPBC Public Invitation Page and are designated as 2018/8297 (APA Pipeline) and 2018/8298 (AGL Regasification Installation). However, the documents are extensive and the Act itself may be difficult for most people to fully read and understand. So, time is of the essence, and we want to help as many people respond with their objections as possible. The deadline for both is October 24th, 2018!

Who Can Help?

You can! The EPBC is an invitation for public comment.

The EPBC Act assures that the public has a voice, and the government assures us that all public comments will be considered. But it is also very specific and is concerned only impact on the environment, so your comments need to focus on those specific issues to be relevant to the decision-makers. Comments relating to the economic situation, residents, jobs opportunities and other factors won’t have much weight.

How Do I Submit?

The quickest way to submit an objection is to email it to epbc.referrals@environment.gov.au.   However, the way you prepare your submissions is important:

  1. Make sure you read the following section “What Do I Say In My Objection?” first.
  2. For the best results, take the time (thank you) to use one of our templates and prepare a written submission.  Below, we have a Word Document Template for the AGL FSRU referral and a separate Word Document Template for the APA Pipeline referral.  Remember they are two separate projects.
  3. If you would like some help, use our Facebook page or our Contact form to ask for help.  We can’t promise you we have time, but we’re very keen if we do.
  4. Save your Word Document and then email it to epbc.referrals@environment.gov.auYour email must be sent before October 24th, 2018 or it will not be accepted. 

Template Letters

The more personal and detailed your letter is, the better, but we have prepared two template letters for you to give you a start.   Be sure to remove all yellow “change me” text or replace it, and remove and replace any other parts of the letters with information and objections of your own.   We don’t want to deluge the department with form letters.

  • Template Letter for AGL Crib Point LNG Import Terminal (2018/8298): Download HERE.
  • Template Letter for APA Pipeline (2018/8297): Download HERE.

What do I Say In My Objection?

We need as many people to prepare a submission as possible, especially if you have some knowledge of the bay, the marine environment, or are particularly good at finding problems and errors in scientific studies. But, you don’t have to be an expert. Being concerned is sufficient, but for the submission to have impact, it must target specific concerns the decision-makers are tasked to consider under the EPBC act itself.

Some of the important topics relevant to the AGL Crib Point project are:

  • Any significant impact to the Westernport wetlands (Westernport has the status of a Ramsar wetland, and Ramsar wetlands are specifically mentioned in the EPBC act itself).
  • Any significant impact to migratory species which live in and around the bay.
  • Any significant impact to threatened species and ecological communities.
  • Any doubts as to whether AGL and APA can uphold their regulatory requirements.  Concrete feedback is required, not opinions.  So, any AGL or APA past infractions which are published and can be referenced are useful.

Note the phrase significant impact. It is a very important phrase to the decision-makers. When considering your objections, this is the way the government defines “significant impact”:

A ‘significant impact’ is an impact which is important, notable, or of consequence, having regard to its
context or intensity. Whether or not an action is likely to have a significant impact depends upon the
sensitivity, value, and quality of the environment which is impacted, and upon the intensity, duration,
magnitude and geographic extent of the impacts. You should consider all of these factors when determining
whether an action is likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance.

In addition, when they say “is likely” they don’t mean that it has to be greater than 50%. So long as there is any reasonable chance, even a slight impact will be considered, so long as it is “real” and not a remote possibility.

To make sure your comments are effective, here is a checklist for you to consider:

  1. Clearly reference the referral (EPBC numbers given above and proposal title) in your submission.  You can find the list of Public Invitations at This Link and can easily locate the APA and AGL referrals themselves.
  2. State clearly whether, and how, you believe the proposal would have a significant impact on matters protected by the EPBC Act as per our guidance here.
  3. If you believe the information in the referral is misleading or incorrect, you should state the reasons why and provide correct information, if available.
  4. Give the source of any key information used in reaching your conclusion.
  5. Provide clear contact details if the Department needs to get in touch with you to seek clarification.
  6. Provide comments by the due date. If your comments are going to be late, please contact the Department before the due date, and advise of your intention to provide comment, and the date the comment will be provided. The Department will advise you if the comments can be accepted.

What Am I Objecting To?

Your objection will have more weight if you do some homework and understand what AGL and APA are doing, and attempt to read the contents of their referral and target your objections to specific points.   We know this is can be a lot of reading, so we’re including some help, below in “Research and Information Links”.   

As a rule:

  • Even if you don’t fully read the referrals, you can object based upon your own knowledge or experience of how any such industrial projects can impact the environment or wildlife.  The more specific you are, and the more you can provide some concrete references (perhaps to other projects in Australia), the more weight it will have.
  • The referrals contain complex documents filled with scientific material and boilerplate responses the government requires, but if you read them, and find errors, inaccuracies, or false assumptions, these are powerful objections.  Such objections raise doubts in the decision-makers minds about the quality of the AGL and APA submission in general.

Research and Information Links

Many people have pointed out some good articles which contain sound arguments against AGL’s plan.  One useful link is to the Victoria National Parks Association.  Though it was published in 2015 after the Hastings container port was put on hold, many papers provided at by VNPA may give you some ideas about areas of environmental sensitivity which may be affected. 

However, in making your submission, the most important documents are the documents which are part of the actual referrals by AGL and APA to the government.  These are the documents that you are objecting to and commenting to.  Time to get your cup of coffee…

For the AGL referral (2018-8298), here are the documents:

For the APA referral (2018/8297), here are the documents: