EES Hearing into AGL’s Gas Import proposal in Westernport Bay.
The Hearings on the AGL EES are now in their second month. The proponent AGL has given their evidence, and on Monday Nov 9 we began hearing from parties that oppose AGL’s plans in Westernport.
To watch the Hearings live — Zoom details for the hearings:
Meeting ID: 810 4993 0543
OR click on ‘Crib Point IAC’ then register here https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC
Recordings of each day’s proceedings can be viewed here
To see when a particular subject will be heard, eg Marine Impacts, Safety etc visit the updated timetable here.
Email the IAC Panel via Georgia Thomas at cribpoint.IAC@delwp.vic.gov.au
October 12th, Summary of Day One of Hearing
Dr Chris Atmore for Save Westernport
This was the first day of the EES Hearing.
We heard that the Inquiry and Advisory Committee (the IAC) will visit Crib Point and sites along the proposed route of the pipeline, but these visits may not be accompanied due to COVID restrictions. The community had requested a guide to point out important areas that would be impacted.
Disappointingly, Phillip Island and areas south of Crib Point, including Cerberus, and from Somers and Balnarring to Flinders are not on the list of places the Panel will visit as we requested.
We think a visit to these places is important for the Panel members to get a better understanding of the character and economy of the Bay, and we’ll try to pursue this with the Panel.
Chair Kathy Mitchell said that it was inappropriate for Save Westernport to present its submissions unrepresented because it is also one of three clients represented by Environmental Justice Australia and a team of barristers. We disagree and hope to respond to this tomorrow morning.
Groups other than the main parties are likely to be allocated 10 minutes each and individual submitters who asked to speak when they made their written submissions will be allowed just 5 minutes each to speak. That part of the timetable is still being finalised.
AGL and APA (‘the proponent’) spent the rest of the day presenting their Opening Submission – essentially a general overview of what they plan to argue, including videos promoting the FSRU, Crib Point Receiving Facility and Pipeline works.
The proponent says that what is in the scope of the IAC to consider should be narrower than we say eg arguments about climate change should not be relevant. They will also argue that the Port of Hastings is already industrialised and that it’s just a question of balancing industry against the environmental considerations and that they can do this. They claim that their EES goes above and beyond EESs for other projects eg they assume worst case scenarios when assessing risk and impacts.
AGL and APA have made some changes to various key documents. We can expect to see more of this as the Hearing progresses.
On Day 2 the IAC heard from most of the other main parties, including the Environment Protection Authority, Mornington Peninsula, Bass and Cardinia Shire Councils, and Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.
Our barristers presented the Opening Submission on behalf of Environment Victoria, Save Westernport and Victorian National Parks Association.
We wish our legal team all the best as they present the Opening Submission representing the community’s views on why this proposal must not go ahead.
To watch the Hearings live each day, go to https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC
At the top it says ‘How to access the Hearing’
‘Crib Point IAC – Hearing Link’
Type in your email address, and then click on the Zoom link to watch the Hearing from 10 am each day, (except Fridays)
If you require technical assistance, ring 03 9078 9726
Below is essential info on the hearings, appearance dates, access links and contact details for spokespeople.
More summaries below.
AGL is proposing to build a 290-metre floating gas import terminal at Crib Point in Westernport Bay, south-east of Melbourne. Westernport Bay is recognised as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
It is home to vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered whales, turtles, fish and waterbirds. The terminal, known as a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), would receive liquefied natural gas (LNG) via shipments from interstate or overseas, then convert this LNG back into gas for distribution via a new pipeline (to be built by APA) running 60 kilometres from Crib Point to Pakenham. AGL’s description of the project is at www.gasimportprojectvictoria.com.au
Two energy companies, AGL and APA, have proposed the project. In October 2018, the Victorian Minister for Planning required the companies to submit an environment effects statement (EES).
AGL took two years to create the 11,000 page EES, and the community was given 40 days to respond during a public exhibition phase from 2 July to 26 August. This coincided with stage four lockdown restrictions.
A joint Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) was appointed to consider the EES and submissions and give advice to ministers and government agencies on the project. All documents relating to the hearings, including public submissions, are at: https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC The hearings will be held online from Monday 12 October to 17 December.
The updated timetable is available here
Zoom details for the hearings:
Meeting ID: 810 4993 0543
The exhibition stage of the environmental assessment for the AGL proposal generated more submissions from the public than any other EES ever held in Victoria.
More than 6059 individual submissions are publicly available on the IAC website, and more than 9,000 additional submissions were lodged with Environment Victoria and are attached to that organisation’s EES submission.
The previous record for most submissions to a Victorian EES was the Mornington Safe Harbour project with 2018 submissions.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?
Submissions opposing the AGL project include federal MP Greg Hunt, several shire councils (Bass Coast, Casey, Mornington Peninsula and Cardinia), Bunurong Elders, recreational fishing peak bodies, landcare groups, tourism operators, local business owners, conservation and climate groups including Sea Shepherd, the Westernport Biosphere and Australian Doctors for the Environment.
All submissions can be searched at https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC/submissions
Links to submissions from conservation and community groups: Environment Victoria Victorian National Parks Association
Save Westernport (submission 3129)
Westernport & Peninsula Protection Council (submission 3149)
Friends of French Island (submission 1140)
For a summary of concerns related to tourism, fishing and local businesses, contact Environment Victoria Media and Content Manager Greg Foyster on 0410879031 or email@example.com
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HEARINGS?
After 30 days the Inquiry Advisory Committee, or IAC will send a report to the Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne.
The Minister will respond with his decision within 30 days. The committee’s report is not public until after the Minister has decided, and the Minister has discretion to ignore the committee’s recommendations.
In the recent North-East Link EES, the Minister dismissed the panel’s key recommendations, and approved the project.
Greg Foyster, Environment Victoria: 0410879031, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia Stockigt, Save Westernport: 0425 306 830, (03) 5983 0094
Candy van Rood, Save Westernport: 0412494985, email@example.com
Shannon Hurley, Victorian National Parks Association: 0433 481 346, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Nottle, Phillip Island Conservation Society Inc: 0419 158 232, email@example.com
Karri Giles, Westernport & Peninsula Protection Council: 0425707448, firstname.lastname@example.org
Livia Cullen, Environmental Justice Australia: 0411108239, email@example.com
Bron Gwyther, Friends of French Island: 0422032527, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the coming weeks Save Westernport will be presenting our case against AGL’s unnecessary, irresponsible plan to import and process LNG in Westernport Bay
Key Hearing Dates
Date Group or expert appearing
12 Oct Opening submission from AGL and APA,
13 Oct Opening submissions from Minister for Planning, Minister for Environment, EPA, Shire councils, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Environment Victoria, Save Westernport and Victorian National Parks Association, instructed by Environmental Justice Australia
14 Oct – 6 Nov Expert witness statements from AGL and APA covering economics, environment impacts, pipeline etc
9 Nov – 16 Nov Mornington Shire and Bass Coast Shire with expert witnesses on greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater, marine ecology, water birds, traffic etc
17 Nov Cardinia Council expert witness on groundwater
18 Nov City of Casey, EPA Victoria,
1.45 pm Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
19 Nov Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council with expert witness Mary Cole on Cinnamon Fungus (Phytophthera) and Chytrid Fungus (Amphiboulus), G & K O’Connor Pty Ltd with expert witness Peter Ramsey in Engineering
23 Nov Joint Environmental Groups: Save Westernport Inc, (SWP), Environment Victoria (EV), and Victorian National Parks Association, (VNPA) will begin with expert witness Bruce Robertson on energy finance and Perran Cook of Monash University on environmental chemistry
24 Nov Joint Env Groups continue with expert witness Matt Edmunds on marine ecology and ecological assessments
25 Nov As above with expert witness John Wardrop on environmental science (oil spills) and Tom Baldock of the University of Queensland on hydrodynamics
26 Nov As above with expert witness Bonnie Rosen on social impacts and Vanessa Wong of Monash University on soil science, Potential Acid Sulfate Soils (PASS)
30 Nov Environment Victoria, Save Westernport Inc and Victorian National Parks Association continued
1 Dec – 2 Dec Chris Atmore will present Save Westernport’s evidence on particular community impacts and local opposition to every aspect of the plan, followed by other community groups.
3 Dec Expert witnesses on animal wildlife rescue, green retrofits and climate/energy French Island Community Association
7 Dec Groups including Sea Shepherd, Doctors for the Environment, Westernport Biosphere, MornPen Climate Action Network, Blue Wedges, Surfriders Foundation, Southern Peninsula Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association (SPIFFA) will each present to the IAC Panel.
8 – 15 Dec Approximately 340 individual submitters will present, for 5 to 10 minutes each
15 Dec Discussion on Mitigation Measures/Environment Performance Requirements
16 Dec Closing submissions from Minister for Planning, Minister for Environment, EPA, Councils, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and Environment Victoria, Save Westernport and Victorian National Parks Association, instructed by Environmental Justice Australia
17 Dec Closing Submissions from AGL and APA. Hearing Ends.
Recordings of the Hearing with witnesses evidence and cross examination are available here: https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC/hearing-recordings
Witnesses evidence and their presentations can be viewed in Tabled Documents here https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/2816/0395/4248/Crib_Point_IAC_-_Document_List_v19_-_29_10_20.pdf
PRESENTATIONS ON SUBMISSIONS
Members of the Public who made EES Submissions and stated they wish to address the IAC Panel at the Hearing will have the chance to speak for 5-10 minutes between Dec 8th – 14th
The timetable shows when individuals have been scheduled to address the Panel.
If you made a written submission on the EES and opted to address the Hearing you should have received an email with that timetable attached. If you did not receive the email contact the IAC to ensure you get listed. They can be contacted here cribpoint.IAC@delwp.vic.gov.au
Day 19 Monday November 16 2020, Summary
Today we heard from terrestrial ecology experts on behalf of the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (see Attachment IX of the EES and Doc 390 below).
Dr Graeme Lorimer gave evidence about the impact of the project on Merran’s Sun Orchid (MSO), a protected and increasingly rare species of Orchid endemic to SE Australia. He pointed out that horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is the best approach for pipeline construction, because trenching, or the digging of a continuous trench for the pipeline has proven disastrous for the environment.
Dr Lorimer therefore believes that ideally there should be no trenching in sensitive areas. However, HDDrilling also has its own significant risks, and he described how the annual cycle of the MSOrchid means it is vulnerable in its emerging stages.
Dr Lorimer disagreed to some extent with APA’s expert Mr Lane, and said that any drilling for the pipeline should be confined to January-March when the species would not be so vulnerable . Dr Lorimer also took issue with Mr Lane’s claim that the route for the pipeline will potentially affect only a small number of MSOs. Dr Lorimer believes that the small numbers identified by APA are because they surveyed areas where other existing pipelines have been installed resulting in degraded vegetation and soil, where fewer MSOs have been able to regenerate.
Dr Lorimer also expressed concerns about the possibilities of a ‘frac-out’ during HDD, an unintended consequence of this drilling technique. Like so many potential impacts of the project frac-outs were not mentioned or assessed in AGL’s EES reports.
During a frac-out, the drilling fluid is accidentally released and is forced to the surface, This occurred during HDDrilling in Kilsyth North near rare orchid habitat. The chemical-mud solution is sprayed out under pressure, either solidifying on the ground before shrinking as it dries, or forming a mound. Regeneration of the soil and localised vegetation can take years. He said a contingency MUST be in place to monitor any frac-outs near MSO habitat so drilling can be stopped immediately.
In the event of a frac-out, Dr Lorimer warned against driving a vac-truck into the area as that would also destroy the flora, and suggested manual removal of the spill. The mud solution is usually chemically based, but it can be substituted with the less commonly used biodegradable form made of Xanthem gum, which was also recommended.
Dr Lorimer believes that the EES and current mitigation proposals are not sufficiently detailed, and the containment and collection techniques to respond to a frac-out are generally either inappropriate or not useful. He observed that he’s accustomed to EESs where the details of the construction method are ‘pretty clear’, suggesting the inadequacy of the plans in place in this EES. While improvements can be made, he still has doubts, given the lack of available detail. For more see Docs 115, 247 & 422 below.
Doc 115 Dr Lorimer’s witness statement
#247 APA reply about Frack-outs etc
#422. Presentation on impacts to Orchid https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/9516/0523/6075/422.__Expert_Witness_Presentation_Dr_Lorimer_-_MPSC.pdf
Southern Brown Bandicoot (SBB)
In the afternoon of the same day, Jake Urlus provided his opinion on the impacts of the project on terrestrial ecology. He was critical of the way APA carried out their surveys, and said the largest and best connected SBBandicoot habitat under threat from the proposal has not been included in their assessment. In particular he believes that the results cannot be accepted as representing the Mornington Peninsula region.
Mr Urlus said it is important to consider how widely the SBB used to be distributed on the Peninsula, and there is still some evidence including a population on Quail Island. He thinks that the Peninsula could be recolonised if conditions are right, citing the success of the reintroduction program at the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens, resulting from the simple exclusion of introduced predator species foxes and cats.
SBBs prefer vegetation that is densely structured and up to 1m high, so Mr Urlus’ view is that habitat along the pipeline alignment and access track won’t be conducive. There will also be less refuge for the SBB and potentially increased predation from introduced species like foxes. He therefore disagrees with the EES and Mr Lane’s assessment of the project’s impact as negligible.
Mr Urlus was critical of methods used by APA to identify possible impacts on the protected species the Swamp Skink and Southern Toadlet, and is particularly concerned about the impact of pipeline trenching on both species. He noted that the Southern Toadlet is also particularly vulnerable to disturbances such as those from frac-outs, and that governments have recently recommended changing its status from Vulnerable to Endangered. For more see Docs 276, 330 & 423.
#276 Jake Urlus witness statement
330 AGL witness Mr Lane replies
423 Mr Urlus Presentation
Day 20 in the morning Nov 17 the MPS Council will make its overall arguments about the Project as a whole. In the afternoon Cardinia Shire Council will do the same.
Day 18 Thursday 12 November 2020, Witnesses on Traffic and Noise
The Hearing continued with evidence from Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and Bass Shire Council, starting with traffic and transport impacts. Witness Hilary Marshall stated that the Transport Impact Assessment in the EES does not include enough accurate data to provide a realistic or robust assessment of existing conditions.
Ms Marshall also had concerns about the adequacy of the analysis and findings. For example, she pointed out that in constructing the pipeline the daily traffic generation is not properly accounted for because the 400 workers will be arriving and departing at peak times. This has important safety implications for peak hour intersection capacity, including at Frankston-Flinders Road / Marine Parade and Woolleys Road / Stony Point Road.
In addition, the traffic from nitrogen trucks will be equivalent to 1800 B-Double truck movements per year. Ms Marshall noted that although AGL says there will be a maximum of 5 trucks per day, they have also said that deliveries won’t be spread evenly, which means on some consecutive days the numbers will be higher. AGL has suggested that nitrogen trucks use Coolart Road to avoid Hastings. Ms Marshall noted that Coolart Rd also has a relatively significant accident history, including two blackspot locations where 5 or more accidents have occurred in the past 5 years and one fatality.
The EES identifies the risk of ‘crash with a train at level crossing due to increased traffic activity and new access tracks’ as High. The EES also notes the impacts on bus routes 782 and 783 during construction – potential delays, route detours and temporary closures of bus stops. Ms Marshall concluded that the level of service to residents in Hastings is likely to be significantly impacted during that time. Impacts on school bus routes have not been assessed.
Ms Marshall believes that there is a reasonable risk that despite claims in the EES, not all the sealed roads identified will have the pipeline installed via the trenchless technique, which will result in unforeseen road closures and disruption.
For more see Docs 120 For MPSC’s witness statement on Traffic https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/4616/0220/1155/120._Hilary_Marshall_Traffic__transport_Witness_Statement.pdf
Some of the evidence in Ms Marshall’s witness statement appeared in her Presentation to the Panel https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/2216/0507/2161/413._MPSC_BCSC_-_Presentation_of_H_Marshall.pdf
In the afternoon Jim Antonopoulos gave expert evidence about noise and vibration. We heard evidence that he was not permitted to independently assess the AGL/AECOM noise model, although he was able to discuss that model with its author on the telephone.
Mr. Antonopoulos stated that he created his own basic model of Crib Point jetty for the purpose of modelling noise levels at the site including a 55 metre high stack as an elevated noise source. This model used recommendations for windfarms in the UK to model noise sources at an elevated height because they (like the height of the FSRU) produces higher noise levels than noise sources at ground level. The approach in the EES did not take the height into account, nor the fact of the noise travelling over water which is regarded as a hard surface. The implications from this modelling are that Project noise levels could be higher than predicted and more noise control could be required than anticipated by AGL.
Mr. Antonopoulos was concerned that AGL placed a high reliance on assumed noise attenuators on the FSRU and the LNG carriers. The carriers are the noisiest source according to the data, and he couldn’t see how this will be easily managed given that they will be operated by third parties. He stated that current United Petroleum unloading operations at Crib Point jetty probably already exceed existing noise limits, and that the cumulative impact of that noise and noise from the FSRU will have to be considered. More survey work on cumulative noise levels around Crib Point jetty would be beneficial in order to include United Petroleum operations. The actual noise levels from FSRU vessels and LNG carriers are not currently known but there will need to be more noise controls for both sources.
The EES has also identified significant exceedances of noise targets during Project construction, especially during evenings (scheduled works on Saturdays and Sundays).
Most of Mr. Antonopoulos’ recommendations were about how noise could be controlled via improved Environment Performance Measures (see Doc 419). For example, he recommended an extended operational noise monitoring program for the first few years to monitor noise from LNG carriers, receiving facility, etc if the project was approved. Simply Informing local residents of high noise levels is not a long-term solution for non-compliance of EPA Victoria noise requirements. The proponent’s suggested noise treatment at nearby residential houses is not a formal compliance approach and treating offsite residential dwellings may only reduce noise levels when windows are closed.
On being questioned by Counsel Assisting the Panel, Jason Kane about noise impacts on beaches and recreational areas (such as Woolley’s Beach), Mr Antonopoulos said that there is probably a broader issue than just considering what level of noise is acceptable, because you could argue that if you can hear any industrial noise in that sort of environment it’s not favourable, although people may very in terms of whether they would still choose to use the area. He said he didn’t know that he could suggest a further EPR to address this aspect.
For more details, see Doc 415 Mr Antonopoulos’ Presentation
Doc 119, Mr A’s witness statement on Noise https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/8416/0162/8116/119._J_Antonopoulos_Noise_and_vibration_Witness_Statement.pdf
The evidence presented on Day 18 Nov 12 can be heard here, with the recordings of each day’s proceedings https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC/hearing-recordings
That’s it for the week. Monday Nov 16 will be Day 19 and we will hear from the two Councils’ expert witnesses on the proposed Project’s impacts on terrestrial ecology, in particular on Merran’s Sun-orchid and the Southern Brown Bandicoot.
Day 15 2pm Crib Point IAC hearings – Monday 9 November
Greenhouse Gas Emissions, presentation by MPSC witness Ed Smith of Northmore Gordon
Mr Smith’s Presentation on GHG https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/1116/0463/4345/392._MPSC_BCSC_-_Presentation_of_Mr_Smith.pdf
“Project decarbonisation benefits may have been overstated…”
“AGL will be able to import LNG from anywhere around the world…”
“Different locations sources of gas have different GHG emission impacts…”
“In an ideal world, this project would meet world’s best practice for GHG emissions…”
“Latest tender from Singapore requires LNG suppliers to provide GHG data for each LNG cargo…”
“MPSC has a target of net zero emissions by 2040…”
“This project would have a significant impact on this 2040 target without offsets…”
“AGL closed loop scope 1 emissions for the FSRU at 160PJ per annum would be 238,070 CO2-e tonnes per year…”
“The (AGL) project should be following best practice…”
Mr. Chessell cross-examination for AGL
thinkstep report and Qatargas 2018 Sustainability Report – referred to by Mr. Smith
“Qatargas LNG has lower GHG emissions as per their 2018 report…”
“All upstream and transportation emissions should be included…”
“Mr. Sichlau considered high GHG emissions imported from Norway vs low GHG emissions from QLD…”
“Scope 1 emissions and scope 2 are included in the GHG inventory…” – agreed by Mr. Smith
Narrabri environmental effects assessment – a project that accounted for scope 3 emissions
“Mr. Sichlau did not account for scope 3 emissions adequately…” Mr. Smith
FSRU regasification = main scope 1 emissions of the project
“Level of GHG emissions can vary depending on location source of LNG…”
“Some of the extraction GHG emissions may not have been taken into account by Mr. Sichlau…”
Qatargas = 8.3 grams of CO2-e/MJ for extraction and liquefaction processes
Mr. Smith wanted to show the wide range of GHG emissions depending on the source of LNG
QLD LNG is higher than Qatar LNG in CO2
“Best practice” – carbon-neutral LNG shipments – offsets are provided by the LNG supplier
“Small % of carbon neutral LNG shipments over past 12 months…” Mr. Smith
“Best practice” – Pavillion Energy (Singapore) – requires LNG suppliers to quantify GHG emissions with each LNG load
Singapore – LNG suppliers are asked to offer carbon offsets as part of LNG sales deals
These are voluntary actions by LNG suppliers
MPSC community reduction target of net zero emissions by 2040
MPSC – AGL project 160PJ imports of LNG for scope 1 and 2 emissions
Mr. Smith supports ‘open loop’ operation for the FSRU regarding GHG emissions
Mr. Smith has not reviewed entire MPSC Climate Emergency Plan – legal status not known
Mr. Smith said GHG emissions offsets should be considered regarding AGL project
“MPSC – actual need for AGL gas import project”
MPSC says AGL gas import project is more suitable for Corio
GHG emissions would be the same at Port of Hastings or Corio
“Would AGL gas project undermine Vic Govt GHG emissions targets?” – Not his area of expertise
“AGL FSRU – closed loop has lower GHG emissions than open loop”
Detailed Witness Statement
More summaries of each day’s hearing to come
Day 4, Thursday 15th October AGL EES hearings by Chris Atmore
Thursday 15 October (Day Four)
The day began with the IAC announcing that they will make a further site visit next Monday, but that they hope when COVID restrictions permit, to make an accompanied visit at some point. It’s also been agreed that where expert witnesses have not been able to visit the site and therefore can’t answer some questions, they may be later recalled to add to their answers.
Port of Hastings Development Authority (PoHDA) then presented its arguments (no witnesses so they couldn’t be cross-examined). It’s fair to say that PoHDA echo the proponents in their enthusiasm for the project (see Docs 2700 and 231), including insisting that the Port is naturally deepwater, already long-term industrial, and in their words ‘open for business’. They stated that the role of PoHDA is ‘to protect, conserve and facilitate port operations’,and there is ‘no limit to port capacity’
In their view, a suite of significant policies and planning controls already exist to support the project, and PoHDA is capable of ‘balancing the needs of the Port against those of the environment.’
PoHDA presented a slide show about the port, which IAC Chairwoman Kathy Mitchell pointed out needed to be clearer and annotated, particularly relating to the Crib Point Jetty. The evidence revealed that the Port jetties rarely have ships the size of the FSRU. however, the necessary approvals have already been obtained to remediate the CP Jetty and accommodate the proposed FSRU and associated facilities.
PoHDA identifies Crib Point as ‘strategically important’ for importing bulk liquids and gases, claiming this to be consistent with current and future Government approved plans for the Port and Crib Point.
The IAC, and submitters through Counsel Assisting Jason Kane, asked a number of questions on notice (meaning answers will be provided later).
The afternoon was taken up with the evidence and examination of the proponent’s expert planning witness, Andrew Biasci (Docs 68 and 176), who is involved in the drafting of the Incorporated Document that is the basis for the proposed planning scheme changes.
Mr Biasci’s focus was on land use impacts, and his evidence dovetailed with the PoHDA’s in terms of the claimed suitability of the Port for the project. He did however introduce a new phrase, ‘sunken investment’ – meaning ‘we’ve spent all this money on infrastructure so industry shouldn’t be stopped unless you’ve got a really good reason’.
Mr Biasci also echoed proponent and PoHDA assertions that the project has State significance and so it should be encouraged and signed off on by the Planning Minister rather than the MP Shire Council. He was confident that there are enough existing checks and balances that there is no need for a detailed economic or tourism report. Visual impacts are also to be expected in a working Port and in his view the EES is addressing these appropriately.
In cross-examination, Counsel Assisting asked whether visual and landscape impacts should be considered as part of managing the construction stage. Mr Biasci did not think so. Mr Kane also drew out a number of possible gaps and uncertainties in the Incorporated Document (ID), including whether MP Council is expected to play at least some role in enforcing the planning amendments. Referring to a clause in the ID which refers to Council, the community and other stakeholders, Mr Kane asked who ‘the community’ is and the response was that this is to be determined (making us wonder what the claimed stakeholder consultation by AGL was for).
Mr Kane noted that another clause in the ID refers to various plans associated with the Project, including the Operation Environmental Management Plan, only being made available on the proponent’s website until the project starts operating. The response seemed to suggest that this clause was just lifted from another project without any specific consideration of the ramifications.
Rupert Watters then took over for the MP and Bass Coast Shire Councils. He raised questions about whether the various policies such as Plan Melbourne actually supported the project in the way that Mr Biasci suggested, because those policies aim to actively improve the environment or prioritise environmental protection over development, and that’s not what the project would do.
Mr Watters also presented a map from the Melbourne Industrial and Commercial Land Use Plan that shows that in fact Crib Point is only of regional significance (the State significance area does not start until north of Long Island Jetty in Hastings, several km to the north).
Finally Robert Forrester, for our combined environment group, extracted an agreement from Mr Biasci that there is nothing in the EES that claims if the Project is denied approval that it will be detrimental to the Port of Hastings. Mr Forrester also hammered home the lack of State significance argument for Crib Point, and left us with the implications that the witness’s conclusions overly rely on Port strategy, which has weaker persuasive authority than legislation.
Day 3 of the IAC HEARING – BY JANE CARNEGIE
DAY 3 was a gruelling technical day focusing on the gas market and the ‘rationale’ for the project.
The hearings covered the expert evidence of Richard Bolt, Jerome Fahrer and Owen Kelp on behalf of the proponents.
Their expert reports and presentations can be found in the Tabled Documents – Nos:
• Bolt -66 & 189
• Fahrer – 67 & 190
• Kelp – 87 & 190.
In addition, Dr Fahrer did a submission in reply to Bruce Robertson’s expert evidence (for us) @ Document 167 and this was also addressed in the hearings.
The day opened with Counsel for the proponents introducing their experts emphasizing that Richard Bolt was focusing on the strategic policy context and Fahrer and Kelp were focused on ‘an independent’ overview of the energy market and impact of the Crib point terminal.
Mr Townshend, in his opening remarks for the proponents, also once again tried to narrow the focus of this aspect of the EES by stating it had to be ‘kept under control’ and should not stray into a wider ambit including environmental sustainable development and broader policy matters. The Chair did not respond. Mr Townsend then went on to give an overview of the expert evidence focusing on energy security in the policy context and that it will be a market decision to proceed. He also emphasized that this is a ‘light intervention’ in the market because the ship can be sailed away and is a transition energy policy.
Richard Bolt then went through his presentation. Mr Watters for the MPSC then undertook cross-examination and did an amazing job, examining different aspects of Mr Bolt’s evidence. Particular aspects included questioning and drilling down into:
• Total gas domestic supply v all supply (and LNG export components)
• Deficiencies in AEMO data and new COAG requirements for mandatory surveys to better base projections on
• Forecasted shortfalls up to 2024 and what they really mean
• Efficiencies in the energy market through decarbonisation policies
• Emphasis in Bolt report on gas powered generation when this is not a big user of gas
• The Victorian Emissions reductions targets and Report of expert panel which Bolt was not familiar with but he agreed energy regulatory changes were sound policy
• Discussion of domestic reserve policies which Bolt did not address in his policy context report and which Watters said had stopped the shortfall originally predicted in 2017
• The PM’s energy statement including support for initiatives for domestic gas and pipeline initiatives to which Bolt said these are all options but they lock in infrastructure whereas FSRU is ‘light touch’ approach to which MPSC counsel replied that this infrastructure could be used for green hydrogen.
Mr McArdle for our combined group then further cross-examined Mr Bolt focusing on:
• Policy context is not one overarching document but comprise many of which Bolt has synthesized only some and that Bolt focused only on supply side with an emphasis that more gas is good and that he did not address climate side policies
• Gas helps decarbonise but only in respect of gas powered generation so very narrow as ‘transition fuel
• Bolt said this Crib point was best option but when questioned he hadn’t properly examined other options such as pipeline upgrades.
Mr Kane, Counsel assisting then asked about when is greatest GPG peaks and this was identified as summer when gas demand generally is down.
Dr Fahrer and Mr Kelp then gave their presentation jointly. Cross examination by MPSC then addressed the following aspects:
• The modeling does not factor in current climate policy settings including Vic Interim target or on sustainable development as IEA does (see The Age today front page) re IEA on renewables
• In the absence of the project it was agreed gas consumption will be lower (but the they say prices will be higher) but they also said that the market will sort itself out so no actual shortfall
• Modeling is hypothetical and as such the claims made re Crib Point could also apply to another import terminal in Vic such as Viva energy – no comment
• Technical discussion on double counting of demand side initiatives (their view) but they couldn’t say what they were
• Their model does not address negative effects – very one sided
• Manufacturing claims demolished by MPSC.
Our Counsel then followed focusing on:
• The negative impacts are more consumption of fossil fuel – they agreed that b/c of lower cost there will be more consumption
• Reinforced position in previous cross-examination re other alternatives and plenty of gas in Australia.
• That modeling shows plenty of gas for Vic without the project until 2030 and that it would enable Vic to continue to be a net exporter until at least 2032 and that the modeling shows peak imports not until 2040.
Jason Kane, Counsel assisting IAC also asked questions and was able to clarify that the modeling suggest no gas imports in summer months until 2040 (really!!) Except for operational reasons and then it would only be about 2pjs
In summary in our view the cross-examination showed many weak aspects of the expert witnesses.
The IAC Hearings ~ Day two by Chris Atmore
Tuesday 13 October (Day Two)
Our barrister successfully argued for Save Westernport to be permitted to address the IAC separately from the legal team for the three joint organisations.
The EPA said that whether discharging chlorine and cold water into our Ramsar wetland is allowable is a question that relies on how the Water SEPP – the relevant environmental policy – should be interpreted, and this hasn’t ever been tested. At this stage it’s not clear how much the IAC will leave for the EPA when the EPA decide after the Hearing whether to approve the FSRU works approval application.
The rest of Day Two consisted of opening submissions from project opponents – basically explaining what they will be arguing in more detail later in the Hearing. We first heard from the Mornington Peninsula and Bass Coast Shire Councils that AGL and APA have failed to justify the Project and to properly assess its impacts on tourism, groundwater, birds, Merran’s Sun Orchid, noise and traffic. Counsel for MPSC, Mr Watters stated that oil/fuel spills can take DECADES to clean up.
The two Councils also singled out the fact that greenhouse gases from the project would undermine not only national emissions targets but also local commitments to addressing the climate emergency. They also emphasised the damage to local amenity that would be the result of visual and noise impacts, especially at Woolleys Beach.
Cardinia Shire Council flagged that they will address the project rationale, greenhouse gases and climate change in November, but today mainly indicated concerns about pipeline safety and impacts on land users, traffic safety and groundwater.
The Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation submission was a stark reminder of how due to being forced to proceed under COVID restrictions we could not even have a traditional welcome to Country. The BLCAC pointed out all the detail that the proponents have provided re different land uses – except regarding the traditional owners where the only relevant documents are the Cultural Heritage Management Plans that are still not finished. Even by the standards of other projects the BLCAC said this is poor.
Despite this we were generously welcomed remotely by Aunty Dyan Summers and Uncle Mik Edwards. Aunty Dyan told us:
‘It scares me that all of our stories are going to be lost if this project goes ahead and how that will affect me. I know I’m not the only Aboriginal woman that feels the same way. This land is not just stones and bones. Land is our being. We’ve learned to walk carefully over the land.’
Uncle Mik reinforced this:
‘It’s not just land to us, it’s our cathedral of spirituality and our library of history that goes back for aeons. We’re all connected through one red blood. We don’t own Mother Earth, she owns us all and will take us home one day. We’re all equal but I don’t feel it very often. I welcome you all to our custodianship of Mother Earth and hope this will be our chance to bring things into equal balance. We’re not well because we’re not balanced. Failure to listen to us exacerbates that.’
What has become known as ‘the Joint Submitter’ or ‘the Joint Environment Group’ – SW, EV and VNPA – then presented its opening submission, focusing for now mainly on why the IAC needs to consider whether the project is needed from within an interactive policy context. Part of the reason for doing this is to counter suggestions yesterday from the proponent that the IAC should just apply policy, not scrutinise it. We say that it’s too complex not to examine how much gas we really need and then consider, given all of the impacts of the project, whether this is really the best way to meet that need.
Finally, Save Westernport outlined how we are embedded in community and what Westernport Bay means to us. We talked about how hard it has been to engage with this process under COVID restrictions, but that the community is determined to oppose the project as strongly as we can, because AGL and APA will never have a social licence. Further in the Hearing we plan to raise issues that will not be dealt with via the Joint Environment Group and to complement the evidence presented from experts with our firsthand knowledge of the social impacts on us.
Bunurong Land Council BLCAC Opening Submission https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/3616/0246/9542/185._BLCAC_-_Opening_submission.pdf
SWP Opening Submission https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/9716/0221/8761/154._Save_Westernport_-_Opening_submission.pdf
Env Justice Australia Opening Submission https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/6316/0221/9285/155._EJV_-_Opening_submissions.pdf
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council Opening Submission https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/4016/0221/9286/160._MPSC_BCSC_-_Opening_submission.pdf
Our submissions are Doc 154 and Doc 155 under Tabled Documents at https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC
The IAC Hearings ~ Day 1, Oct 17 Julia Stockigt
Introductions and procedural matters were followed by a submission from QC Chris Townshend for the proponents AGL and pipeline company APA. For the first three weeks , we will be hearing from the proponents and the Port of Hastings on project rationale. They’ll present evidence on gas and from witnesses on the mitigation measures they claim will manage the environmental, social and economic impacts, and the safety concerns about the construction and operation of the project.
Mr Townshend stated ‘If you want to challenge this proposal on its lack of sustainability, then you’ve picked the wrong project: this is a very “light touch” project, because at the end of its lifetime, the Floating Storage and Regasification Unit, (FSRU) can just be “Untied from the jetty and sail away”.
(Firstly, we didn’t ‘pick the project’ at all, rather, it is being forced upon a furious community that has opposed and rejected it in the strongest terms since the idea was first announced. Secondly, the proposed construction of this new fossil fuels infrastructure, with a 56km of new pipeline, through protected wetlands and private holdings could never just ‘sail away’. It would remain an abandoned asset FORVER. Far from being ‘lightbtouch’ , the AGL proposal poses so many significant environmental threats, it was ordered to undergo the highest environmental review available in Victoria.)
On Day 1 APA stated that all modifications to the proposed route responded to land use and development concerns, and to limit impacts to agriculture. Other than suggesting an alternative drilling method, none of the modifications were adopted for reasons of environmental protection, although the proposed route cuts extremely close to the Tyabb waterholes, and similar areas particularly vulnerable to the destructive impacts of chytrid and cinnamon fungus. No mitigation measures to prevent the spread of these environmental pathogens were touched on.
You can listen to recordings of each day’s proceedings here https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC/hearing-recordings