This week, at the end of April, we learned that AGL and pipeline company APA had withdrawn their EPBC referrals for their gas import proposal and pipeline in Westernport Bay. The applications for the project were made to the federal government in 2018 under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Last month Minister Wynne announced that he would be recommending against AGL’s hugely unpopular proposal to import and process gas in Westernport Bay.
Since then, AGL has quietly withdrawn their EPA Works Approval Application in Victoria, just in time to prevent the Environment Protection Authority from publicly releasing their report on the harmful impacts of the project, including the release of chlorine into the protected Wetlands in Westernport Bay.
Like the withdrawal of the EPBC application yesterday, there were no brash media statements, just a few words added to government websites to let the community, and AGL shareholders know that the project had been overruled and would not be going ahead.
While we welcomed the news, until the withdrawal yesterday, AGL had only stated they ‘were considering their options’. This left uncertainty about the possibility that the pipeline component of the gas import proposal could still go ahead.
The withdrawal of the APA referral now means that plans for the pipeline have been scrapped along with the FSRU. This is the final nail in the coffin for every aspect of AGL’s hopes to import gas into Westernport.
In a statement by local Member for Flinders, the Health Minister told residents that federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley will no longer be reporting on the Matters of National Environmental Significance, or MNES, which until yesterday was expected to be publicly released this week. By setting important precedents on the release of Chlorine and other major impacts, doubtless this, and the EPA reports, would’ve had major implications on the VIVA and VOPAC gas import projects now under consideration near Geelong,
These two separate FSRU proposals are only now beginning their own Environment Effects Statements. Like AGL’s plans in Westernport, these EES’s were called due to concerns that each of the projects would threaten protected Wetlands, in this case near Victoria’s Corio Bay.
It appears that a collaborative effort between the competing fossil fuels corporations AGL, and the others just now beginning their approvals processes, has twice seen AGL strategically withdraw its applications just days before the government was due to release its findings. This has effectively removed the need for government to publicly release their reports on the release of Chlorine and other major impacts to be made public.
A project cannot be reported on if it does not exist, and with applications withdrawn, officially there is no longer any AGL project to revue.
It occurs to us that after 10 weeks of evidence, from dozens of expert witnesses at the EES hearing, and three years of enormous strain on a community forced to waste untold financial resources and time attending countless AGL meetings, analysing 1100 pages of EES reports, writing nearly 10,000 public submissions, while AGL wasted over $130 million dollars and countless hours of government time and taxpayer funded work on the EES, the public is effectively none the wiser, and we’ll never know the conclusions arrived at after the protected consultations of various ministers on this wasteful disgrace of a project and its harmful environmental effects.
What’s worse, communities around Geelong are about to be subjected to the same privations, stress and cost of the same environmental revues assessing the same impacts for not one, but two separate FSRU gas import proposals.
During our own three year campaign against AGL, Save Westernport has learned enough about the East Coast gas cartels taking advantage of the lack of a reserve to stop our gas being sold offshore, to know that gas import projects in a country like Australia—which produces more gas than any other country in the world—are unnecessary, wasteful and exploitative.
That’s why Save Westernport stands in solidarity with Geelong Sustainability and the affected communities now facing the enormously stressful and financially draining responsibility of standing up to irresponsible corporations and poor government decisions.
We’ve learned a great deal, but it has come at an enormous cost, and while we’re enjoying this victory over AGL, we do it knowing that as we celebrate, the Port of Hastings Development Authority is already out there soliciting new industrial proposals for Westernport with the same approach and misleading disinformation about the Port of Hastings being ‘naturally deep’ that has seen every one of their new proposals in the past decade chucked out on environmental grounds.
AGL may be gone, but PoHDA seems determined to continue disrespectfully ignoring their responsibilities as commercial users of the Ramsar site, and the heartfelt aspirations of the Westernport community to which they belong.
As the writer of a recent letter in the local paper asked, ‘Now where is that Hydrogen ship from Japan?’