THE IAC HEARINGS DAY 3 – 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.

Media Background for Crib Point terminal inquiry hearings, by Greg Foyster

The briefer includes essential info on the hearings, appearance dates, access links and contact details for spokespeople.

THE PROJECT

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

THE HEARINGS

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 timetable is here.

Zoom details for the hearings:
Meeting ID: 810 4993 0543
Passcode: 771844 

link >


THE SUBMISSIONS

The environmental assessment for this project has generated an unprecedented number of public submissions.

More than 4345 submissions are publicly available on the IAC website, and more than 9,000 additional individual submissions were attached to Environment Victoria’s 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 include federal MP Greg Hunt, several shire councils (Bass Coast, Mornington, Cardinia), recreational fishing peak bodies, tourism operators, local business owners, environment and climate groups.

All submissions can 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 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 g.foyster@environmentvictoria.org.au

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HEARINGS?

The committee has 30 days to send a report to the Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne.

The Minister has 30 days to respond and make his decision. 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 approved the project and dismissed key findings of the panel.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Greg Foyster, Environment Victoria, 0410879031, g.foyster@environmentvictoria.org.au

Julia Stockigt, Save Westernport, 0425 306 830,
juliastockigt@gmail.com

Candy van Rood, Save Westernport, 0412494985, candy@candyspender.com.au

Shannon Hurley, Victorian National Parks Association, 0433 481 346, shannon@vnpa.org.au

Jeff Nottle, Phillip Island Conservation Society Inc, 0419 158 232, nottle@bigpond.net.au

Karri Giles, Westernport & Peninsula Protection Council, 0425707448, carolinejean4@optusnet.com.au

Livia Cullen,Environmental Justice Australia, 0411108239, livia.cullen@envirojustice.org.au

Bron Gwyther, Friends of French Island, 0422032527, bron_gwyther@hotmail.com

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, 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,
Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation 19 Nov

Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council with expert witness Mary Cole on Phytophthera cinnamon, Amphiboulus Chytrid Fungus G & K O’Connor Pty Ltd with expert witness Peter Ramsey in Engineering 23 Nov Environment Victoria,

Save Westernport Inc and Victorian National Parks Association with expert witness Bruce Robertson on energy finance and Perran Cook of Monash University on environmental chemistry 24 Nov

As above 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 30 Nov

Environment Victoria, Save Westernport Inc and Victorian National Parks Association continued 1 Dec – 2 Dec

Save Westernport and Environment Victoria continued 3 Dec Expert witnesses on animal wildlife rescue, green retrofits and climate/energy French Island Community Association 7 Dec – 15 Dec

Approximately 340 individual submissions, each allotted 5 to 8 minutes 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 1

7 Dec Closing submissions from AGL and APA

Will’s Story

Will’s Story

Growing up I remember salt prickling my skin,
Azure blue water and an oven like northerly,
Pea soup green easter swells,
Surfing in howling south westerly blizzards at Merricks point,
Walking through the tangled tee tree trunks in the half dark,
Slipping on muddy paths with numb feet,
Koalas unearthly carrying on in the tree in the back yard,
Dolphins surfacing under our surfboards at Pt Leo.
The stench of rotting seaweed when the Balnarring or Somers creek mouths block up,
Threading my car through the network of lonely roads,
Acute angles and straight lines through a tunnel of trees, heading towards the prom.
Tooradin, mudflats, mangroves spikes, tinnies floating way below or banging against moorings at high tide.
Garfishing, an artificial light run off a battery in a tiny boat, forming an otherworldly luminous cone in emerald green water
Snorkelling very rarely and still seeing an eagle ray and stingrays at Merricks.
Seagrass seaweed, piled on the beach to knee height.
The smell of it, the weird lumpy mattress feeling of walking in it, throwing it at my family, my brother stuffing it down my top.
The way it sticks to you and you find it stuck to you after hours and a shower.
Snippets of a life lived with an inescapable connection to the surrounding land, and developing an understanding of the importance of each element.
Taken together these memories are a way of growing up, the connection between the weather and state of the sea, and the smell of the town you live in, familiar and precious to many Australians
What do they think millions of litres of chlorinated fresh water will do to the seagrass? What effect do they expect the death of the seagrass to have on the garfish, and stingrays, and dolphins, and flathead?

Will local grandkids still have dusty photos of seaweed moustaches and wigs in 10 years?

 

A Heart Story from: Mirielle Schreuders

A Heart Story from: Mirielle Schreuders

Close your eyes. Come on a journey with me.

It’s early morning, you think about your day ahead. You recognise and embrace and are truly grateful for the many birdsongs that greet you each and every morning.

There are no other sounds, perhaps a car on its way to work, but you realise how incredibly fortunate you are to live in a rural setting, with the blessings of nature that greet you amongst the peace and quiet of the towns around Bittern and Crib Point.

You take a big breath and gently get out of bed. Still the birds keep their songs. You realise what a magnificent part of the world you live in. Beaches, bush, birds, bliss. What a perfect area for your family to learn about wilderness. You think you have made the best decision to raise your children here.

To care for nature. To have space. Clean air. Clean water. Tranquillity.

And then.

A large conglomerate called AGL decide that your home, your community, your land, your sea, your sand should be home to a monstrous floating gas tank. Disregarding the towns natural way of living, our conservation practices, and our pleas to choose another, more appropriate setting, AGL push their proposal and the community decide that our livelihoods, our quietude and our territory is worth the fight, so we raise our voices.

Come back to the journey.
Close your eyes
It’s evening. The birdsong returns. So many birds, different pitches, different lullabies. You breathe out a long sigh. For now, we have our way of life. If there was ever a home to protect, flora and fauna to safeguard, it’s certainly here.

These are two cheeky, but very friendly locals in our backyard (we live in Bittern, just 3.5km from the proposed site of development)

What will become of them, if AGLs plans are permitted?

I can’t bear to think of the damage and destruction and noise pollution of our bushland and waterways.
Honourable Minister Richard Wynne, the heritage, the wilderness and the soul of these area’s cannot be replaced nor can a price be put on their significance.

Please think of our precious land, our families, our wildlife. Our way of life, that we have chosen.

“ Such beauty, not of human hand… Is there for us to see… All nature is so wonderful…

The cost is nil, all free “

Shaun’s story

Shaun’s story

I grew up and spent the first 18 years of my life in Crib Point. My parents still live in the same house and so I return every couple of months or so to visit them.

Its low profile and low-key atmosphere are attributes that I’ve always valued and are what drove my parents here decades ago in the first place. It has enjoyed this low-profile status after much of the heavy industry left in the 1980’s. Since that time its environmental assets, bushland, wetlands, tourism and its portion of Westernport Bay have all enjoyed a gradual recovery as it continues to transition away from its industrial past.

Our wetlands are home to the world’s southernmost mangroves, which are a major tourist attraction, employing many across the Mornington Peninsula both directly and indirectly. This project threatens the wellbeing of this delicate ecosystem, and those industries that rely on its prosperity. These include the world-renowned Penguin Parade and Seal Rocks on nearby Phillip Island, board walking, birdwatching, whale watching, farming and fishing, which are major employers and tourism drivers in the wider Westernport Bay region.

I attribute my deep curiosity and knowledge of the natural world to being able to explore this wonderful area every weekend as a youth. I have been studying the biological world for a decade now and have a deep appreciation for its complexities.

It wasn’t until many years after having left Crib Point for Melbourne that I realized how utterly unique the place is. A coastal town with a country flavour that has remnants of an industrial past, but also has extraordinary recreation and further tourism potential given its wetlands and surrounding Woolley’s Beach Reserve and associated boardwalk and bushland.

I have really grown to appreciate it, and whenever I get the chance to tell someone about the hidden gem I grew up in, I jump at it. I mean there are birds that spend part of their life cycle between Westernport Bay and far eastern Siberia in Russia, it’s extraordinary! There are now regularly whales and dolphins in the area, this has steadily increased since I was living there. When I was younger, I used to sit on Woolley’s Beach and just enjoy the peace and tranquility, the amazing birdlife, the fishing boats, and of course would also have a swim in summer. I would stare at French Island and dream about going there one day and exploring its secrets.

But with this proposal comes a hulking 290-meter-long, 50-meter-wide, 17 story high obstruction in the form of a FSRU – what a way to drive a hammer through one of Crib Point’s most important assets. Crib Point has a unique mix of attributes and a low-key atmosphere that residents highly value.

Our lifestyles, the reason why we all moved here will be gone along with the peace and tranquility.

Having grown up within earshot of the old fire station in Crib Point, I am well accustomed to the sense of anxiety and dread whenever the fire-alarm goes off. The Crib Point, Bittern, Stony Point, Hastings area is extremely bushfire prone, it has experienced major fires recently, and every summer comes anxiety whenever the local fire brigades alarm goes off. I grew up about 2 kilometers from where the Crib Point jetty is now, so this holds a very important place in my heart.

This project will contribute to a worsening bushfire outlook given its vast emission of greenhouse gases and also increase the risk locally given the volatile nature of gas.

One of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood was when I was about 8 years old and my next door neighbour (who was a firefighter) came and knocked on our front door and warned us there’s a major out of control fire at HMAS Cerberus (naval base). So of course, we packed some essentials, let other locals know and tuned into the local radio station for what to do next.
We then hopped on our roof to see if we could get a glimpse and there, we saw the great Elvis firefighting helicopter fly right over our house near the old fire station in Crib Point. I remember it well; it was so close. It was a very scary time in my life.

It was a lesson in the awesome power of our natural environment if we are not prepared, if we don’t balance our societies needs with the environment’s needs, and when we fail to get it right. That was about 20 years ago and to continue exacerbating bushfire risk is about the most irresponsible action to take at this point.
This project would increase the severity of an already full bushfire season.

My parents now rely on the VicEmergency app to get the latest bushfire info. This is their new normal in summertime and increasingly, as the bushfire season expands, spring and autumn as well. We know when we listen to our firefighters that mitigation in back burning and keeping fire paths clear is only a minor part of the overall fire response. The best response is to maintain our relatively stable and predictable global climate, by not investing in any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

No amount of firefighting helicopters and finances can save a major gas pipeline when a multi-story fire aided by its own wind and lightning weather system is raging along.
Every local politician at least has some serious concerns about the rationale over this project. All four of the councils that are affected, include the City of Casey Council, Cardinia Shire Council, Bass Coast Shire, and the Mornington Peninsula Shire. They all voice concerns of their own regarding the potential impacts and the inadequacy of the EES.

Westernport Bay is such an asset to the Greater Melbourne area and beyond, and to see it compromised will not be acceptable.

The project rationale is inadequate and doesn’t meet the nation’s needs, and given how numerous viable alternatives in the renewable energy sector are ready to meet our country’s needs, this project is unnecessary.

Best put by Australia’s premier climate authority the Climate Council, the world does not need any new fossil fuel infrastructure, the case for investment in new gas infrastructure in Australia is weak at best. We need to create clean jobs and rapidly shift Australia away from fossil fuels. We do not need new gas. It’s time to put the community and the climate first by creating jobs in clean energy.

They have already outlined why investing in gas infrastructure is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. The alternatives are ready to use now. A mix of tidal, offshore and onshore wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, solar on all suitable households and public buildings with a mix of battery storage, pumped hydro-storage, smart grids and revitalising our wetlands and forests to capture some of that carbon.

Diversify the economy; where has the tax revenue from our mining boom, education and tourism booms gone? We are among the biggest exporters of coal, gas and iron ore, why hasn’t the profit been reinvested back into our community making it more resilient, like what Norway has done?

We see ambitious work being done in other states such as South Australia and it’s Tesla Battery, Tasmania with its ‘Battery of the Nation’ proposal, and the ACT with its 100% renewables policy. Where is Victoria’s ambition, aren’t we the most progressive state in Australia?

Is this really where Australia is at in its climate response obligations, is this really where we are happy to situate ourselves on the global platform? A domestic gas reservation policy and greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes are seen as the overarching
solutions.

We need a vision for an inspiring future, and we have the technology, expertise, finances and the plan forward, we can do it.

‘Through Our Hands’ lyrics (Marty Williams, Matt Sykes & Lynn Webber ‘20 )

‘Through Our Hands’ lyrics (Marty Williams, Matt Sykes & Lynn Webber ‘20 )

 

Standing by the water
I’m standing on the edge
Mar-ran biik is calling
Return to Warn mar-rin

I came here with my brothers
my sisters by my side
I come here with my elders
& my children as my guides

We stand here as one people
Our witness to this time
We hold each other’s spirits
the sand, the sea, the sky

We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures.

We’re waking up the seeds
That have been waiting in the ground
I know that through these hardened times
Our memory will soon be found

So dance on my horizon
Across our misty clouds of doubt Become my absolution
My pinnacle of love

We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures

Through our hands, through our hands Through our hands, through our hands, Through our hands, through our……hands.

 

Heart Story from Tom Hiney

Heart Story from Tom Hiney

I first met Westernport Bay 5 years ago when my partner, now fiancée, and her father took me to meet her for a surf. We arrived in Shoreham and strolled through the beautiful woodlands above her shore and as we broke through the tree cover, I could see her in all her beauty.

The views over to Philip Island, out through her heads into the Bass Straight and the beautiful coastline down to Flinders. The waves were perfect, the crowd was friendly, and the water was beautiful. Clear enough to see the sea grass and rocky reef below my feet as they hung down into the sea.

Weeks later we would come back on a swell-less day to snorkel here and spot Sting Rays and Weedy Sea Dragons.

Over the years, Westernport Bay and I have become firm friends, I see her every day, on my morning runs around Balnarring Beach and surf her waters as often as she provides swell. Always delighted to paddle out in her regardless of the temperature or season, I know I’ll have fun with her.

I’ve introduced my family and friends to her when they’ve visited from the UK and all have been impressed and amazed at her beauty and vistas, the sandy beaches and the wildlife filled mangroves. A stroll along her board walk in Warrangine, or standing on the Flinders Pier on a blustery day watching Gannets and Albatross soar.

Her wildlife is incredible, I’ve surfed with penguins and Fur Seals, snorkelled with Sea Dragons and Sting Rays and watched in amazement as Hooded Plovers and Red capped plovers scamper along her beaches trying to raise their young.

When I heard there was a Save Westernport group, it made complete sense to be involved to protect my dear friend.

The thought that AGL could propose a FSRU to ruin this magnificent space is heart breaking. Anyone who has set foot on her beaches and looked out across her will be staggered by the thought of industrialising her.

I urge any politicians thinking that AGL’s ridiculous and horrid plan is a good idea, to come and visit Westernport Bay, let me show you her dolphins, let’s watch the birds swoop over her waters feeding and admire the wild spaces along her boundaries.

If the FSRU goes ahead, my heart would break, knowing that my friend, my source of joy and wonder is going to be slowly destroyed by mans greed and ignorance – especially when two alternative locations exist that are not Ramsar wetlands or Marine National Parks and have the infrastructure in place.

 

#savewesternport stands with #schoolstrike4climate

#savewesternport stands with #schoolstrike4climate

https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com/buildourfuture

Save Westernport supports everyone doing at-home protests against gas development on this Global Day of Action against Gas.
Many people on the Mornington Peninsula are running online or private events, joining Hundreds of Thousands of people protesting about the gas threat here in Australia.

Check out the local events for this global day of action here
https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com/buildourfuture

Today the @schoolstrikeforclimate are calling us to flood the PM @scottmorrisonmp on social media —twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tiktok, and with phonecalls (02)6277 7700 to tell him we demand a safe, clean funded future, not a gas lead recovery.

Let’s call the PM to tell him that gas is no ‘transition fuel’. It’s just as dangerous and inefficient to burn as coal, and every dollar spent on it is a dollar taken from the Renewable Energy solutions needed to power our future.

Our demands are no public funds for gas and other damaging fossil fuel projects. Instead, recovery funds should be spent on.

1. Resourcing aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions that guarantee land rights and care for country.

2. The creation of jobs that fast-track solutions to the climate crisis and help communities recover.

3. Projects that transition our economy and communities to 100% renewable energy by 2030x through expanded public ownership”.

Thank you @sachaguggenheimer #fundourfuturenotgas @schoolstrikeforclimate rallies are being held around Australia . @scottmorrisonmp

Sacha: ecosystem collapse will destroy far more than just our economy. We’ll look back on Coronavirus and think, what a walk in the park compared to the devastation brought on us by #climatechange

Link in my bio to the online @schoolstrikeforclimate wrap up rally at 6pm EST. We’re in a pandemic, so this Day of Action won’t have us gathering in huge numbers, but each of us will be taking action, however and wherever we can.


💪🌎 @savewesternport

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/17/scott-morrisons-gas-led-recovery-what-is-it-and-will-it-really-make-energy-cheaper

EES Directions Hearing Begins

EES Directions Hearing Begins

The Directions Hearing for the Environment Effects Statement on AGL’s gas import proposal was held on September 17.

For the first time an EES Hearing will be live-streamed via video link due to COVID restrictions.

The Hearings will be chaired by Kathy Mitchell, Chief member of the five-member Inquiry Advisory Committee Panel. The Panel was appointed by the Victorian Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne to oversee the EES Hearings and advise him of their findings at its conclusion.

Ms Mitchell was clear and direct as she explained the purpose of the Directions Hearing, and laid out the schedule. The Panel Hearings will review the Environment Effects Statement that AGL prepared, and the thousands of submissions that the public has written in response. 

The IAC Hearings will begin October 12continuing every day except Fridays and weekends until mid December. The Panel will break for Christmas and return their finding sometime in mid-February 

The Hearings will be live streamed, and recordings made available the following day along with other information on the EngageVic IAC website here

At the Directions Hearing on September 17, each of the Panel members introduced themselves, followed by the legal teams for the represented parties. These were:

– The local Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

– Cardinia Shire Council 

– Key community and environmental groups Save Westernport, Environment Victoria and Victoria National Parks Association, (VNPA) represented by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA)

– the EPA 

– the Proponents AGL, and pipeline company APA

– the Port of Hastings Development Authority

An article about the Directions Hearing appeared in the Australian Financial Review the following day. 

The two most important aspects of the Directions Hearing were. 

1. Legal Counsel for Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC) requested the Hearings to be adjourned on the grounds that expert witnesses have not been able to conduct necessary site inspections due to current Stage 4 Lockdown restrictions.

They argued that it would be procedurally unfair to require expert witnesses for the Council and other groups to give evidence on subjects including visual amenity, marine impacts, coastal flora and fauna, traffic and more, without the benefit of visiting the various locations that would be affected by AGL’s project.

The IAC Panel seemed reluctant to allow any change to the Hearing schedule, but gave no reason for the rushed agenda.

In May this year AGL CEO Brett Redman claimed in The AGE that the EES process should be ‘fast-tracked’.

This led to concerns that the AGL CEO’s comments might have unduly influenced Minister Wynne’s decision that led him to announce that the EES would proceed without due regard for the difficulties of COVID-19, the State of Disaster, or the escalating restrictions of Stage 4 lockdown that as predicted, have been making participation in the EES process so difficult for the public. 

The Minister for Planning refused to be swayed by appeals from Save Westernport, from the Mornington Peninsula Mayor, local Member for Flinders Greg Hunt MP, and hundreds of members of the community, requesting that he consider how greatly the limitations of the pandemic would compromise people’s ability to write submissions and participate in the Public Hearings if the EES were allowed to proceed with COVID restrictions still in effect.

This will be the first time an EES Hearing has ever had to be remotely operated. DELWP representatives have confirmed that it is also the most complex EES ever held in Victoria.

Just as COVID restrictions limited the ability of the public to collaborate on reviewing thousands of pages of AGL’s EES reports to make a submission, AGL will also benefit from the inevitable advantage they’ll receive due to the considerable challenges of COVID-19 and the ways that will impact the EES Hearing. 

For the last two years, Witnesses for AGL have been able to visit the area without restriction. In contrast, our expert witnesses may not ever have the chance to see the proposed locations before being required to give evidence at the Hearing. 
Groups including Save Westernport will have difficulty  advising our legal teams in real time when neither of us can be present during the Hearings.  

In response to the request for an adjournment, the IAC Chair asked whether the local Council could simply issue permits to allow expert witnesses to visit the proposed locations. Panel members we’re issued with permits to visit the area last week.

In his response the Shire’s legal Counsel referred to the State government’s list of exemptions to COVID restrictions, pointing out that it does not allow for witnesses.

The Panel Chair stated that twice during their recent visit to the area, the Members’ vehicle was stopped by local police patrols to check their permits and ask where the group was going.

According to Ms Mitchell, unless permits for site visits can be arranged, we may have to accept that our expert witnesses will have to give evidence without the benefit of ever viewing the areas they’re required to report on.

Nevertheless, expert witnesses will play an important role, challenging AGL and the information they provided in their EES reports during the Hearings.

You can help us meet to costs of providing expert witnesses by DONATING to Save Westernport’s Fundraising campaign here. Expert witnesses will test AGL’s claims, and present detailed evidence on key subjects at the Hearings.

 

2. The second point of interest resulting from the Directions Hearing was Panel Chair Kathy Mitchell’s announcement that the IAC overseeing the Hearings and the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council have each issued AGL and APA with requests for further information that was not available in their EES reports.

Among the many tabled documents on the IAC website, are the extensive lists of further information that the proponents must supply.

These requests confirm what we discovered when AGL’s EES reports became available: they lack important detail and rely on flawed modelling, questionable data and incorrect assumptions.

The lists of extra information required by the IAC Panel and Mornington Peninsula Shite Council  are extensive and include requests for details of tidal and weather conditions that should’ve been provided with the original field work in the original EES reports and pipeline application.

Data on greenhouse gas emissions, on the handling of chlorine and formaldehyde, management of contamination by potential acid sulphate soil (PASS), management of increased truck traffic, the inadequacy of mitigation strategies and disposal of the oily sludge produced during regasification are further examples of the kind of extra information that is sought.

Other examples were listed in an article in the Financial Review this week.

AGL needed two years to prepare their EES reports. They now have until September 25 to outline how they plan to provide all that requested information to the Panel.

Counsel for the proponent AGL, Mr Townsend attempted to make light of the requests, claiming that additional information is routinely requested at this stage. However, if these details were available to AGL, surely they would have included it in their original EES it was released.

A recording of the Directions Hearing, and thousands of submissions from the public have been made available on the IAC Planning Panels website here

https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC

Panel Chair, Ms Mitchell provided this list of the main themes emerging in the public submissions so far. 

Members of the public who made submissions on the EES will be able to address the Panel at the Public Hearings. Whether people initially requested to speak for one hour or one minute, the large numbers of people wanting to address the Panel has made it necessary for spoken submissions from the public to be limited to just 8 minutes each.

This stage of the Hearings probably won’t commence until about mid November, and everyone who applied to speak will address the Panel via Zoom video link.

Suggested sites for the IAC Panel to visit, and numerous witness statements are available in the Tabled Documents for the Hearing. This list is constantly being updated.

For more information on the EES Hearings contact Andrea Harwood or Georgia Thomas of Planning Panels Victoria (03) 8392 5116

cribpoint.IAC@delwp.vic.gov.au.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has suggested that the Panel should visit sites on French Island, Woolleys Beach and Warringine Park. It’s hoped that Panel members will appreciate the extent of environmental degradation the AGL proposal would bring unless it is rejected.

Warringine Park, between Crib Point and Hastings lies within the Westernport Ramsar site. The Park is considered significant to the survival of critically endangered migratory bird species, including the Far Eastern Curlew and the Fairy Tern. 

If the project ever went ahead, Warringine Park would be severely impacted by the construction of a new gas pipeline that would bisect its fragile wetlands.

A Virtual Tour of Warringine Park is available here

Bass Coast Council has also suggested several a locations on Phillip Island.

A virtual tour of Ryhll on Phillip Island is available here

If AGL proceeded with their deeply unpopular plans, upper estimates of 40 LNG tankers per year would increase commercial shipping traffic in Westernport by as much as 40% for the next twenty years.

The ever-present spectre of AGL’s proposed floating gas factory at Crib Point, the visiting LNG tankers, dredging (‘levelling’) and diesel-belching tug boats, would permanently change the character of Westernport, altering its vista across the Bay from nearly every lookout and vantage point.

This and other disastrous impacts and safety concerns are detailed Save Westernport’s submission against the AGL proposal and EES. Read it here.

Despite the limitations and difficulties of COVID, we should congratulate ourselves that a total of 6,059 submissions have officially been received by the EES Panel in opposition to the AGL proposal.

These public submissions can be viewed here on the IAC website ( Inquiry Advisory Committee).
The Panel Chair confirmed at the Hearings that a controversial decision by Planning Panels Victoria has resulted in thousands of submissions being excluded from the official tally. Save Westernport raised this matter through our legal representative at the Directions Hearing. This resulted in the official tally being revised upwards from 3083 to 6059.

Even though this total smashed all previous records for EES submissions received in Victoria, the Panel’s decision not to count as many as half the submissions received has angered and disappointed many people.

This outcome was attributed to “incorrect advice” that meant thousands of submissions were lodged through an alternative government email address.

Understandably, the decision has been confusing, because the department acknowledges receiving some, but not all of the submissions through the alternate, (incorrect) website, and all submissions in question were received before Planning Panel’s deadline on August 26.

While submissions in this group will not be counted as individual submissions, Planning Panels Victoria states that they WILL be still be reviewed, and the information they contain taken into account. 

The enormous number of submissions against the AGL proposal is still many times greater than the numbers usually received for EES projects in Victoria, which confirms the extent of community interest, concern and overwhelming opposition to AGL’s plans.

Remember, Save Westernport is still raising urgently needed funds to take on AGL at the Panel Hearings on October 12.

 

Save Westernport will be represented during the EES Hearings by Environmental Justice Australia. However, we are still short of our target to provide legal Counsel throughout the two months of Hearings, and to engage expert witnesses to challenge the inadequate technical and ecological information contained in AGL’s EES reports. 

The average cost of an expert witness to provide a report and undergo cross examination by AGL’s barristers is over $5,000 each.

You can help by donating to help us meet the costs of expert witnesses and legal representation to take on AGL at the EES Hearings. Our barristers will be required to attend up to ten weeks of Hearings, and will be appearing at a greatly reduced rate. 

If you’re able to help us challenge AGL, you’ll also be helping us make sure the community’s interests are represented at the EES Hearings, 

PLEASE MAKE A DONATION TODAY.

We are determined to demonstrate how inappropriate and unnecessary AGL’s Gas import plans in Westernport really are.

 

 

 

 

 

Emphatic NO! to Gas Plan

Emphatic NO! to Gas Plan

 

Last week the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council ran a poll on their website that asked—

“Do you support AGL’s proposal for a gas import jetty and pipeline in Westernport Bay?”

More than two thousand people responded, with an overwhelming 93.6% answering NO –  a clear sign of the community’s emphatic rejection of controversial plans by gas giant AGL to import and process LNG near Crib Point for the next twenty years.
Read about it in this week’s Mornington Peninsula News

The decisive result was no surprise. Ever since AGL named the coastal village of Crib Point as their ‘preferred location’ to process gas, members of Save Westernport have been expressing the extent of local opposition to the company’s CEO and Boardmembers.

AGL seriously misrepresented the suitability of the proposed site, telling the government they could “make use of existing infrastructure”, when the project would require the construction of a 60km pipeline.

It’s now widely recognised that Westernport’s internationally recognised wetlands and unique marine ecology are entirely incompatible with the heavy industry of its past. 

What’s more— Westernport’s mangroves and Coastal Saltmarsh ecosystems are directly threatened by our dependence on fossil gas.
AGL must not be permitted to profit from perpetuating the misguided practices of a bygone era.

Save Westernport believes the company’s shareholders expect a great deal more from AGL, and we plan to make this clear to the members of the Board at their AGM later this month.

Forcing a project that has been overwhelmingly rejected by this community and its Shire Council would imperil the company, exposing AGL to the enormous risk of further degrading its tenuous reputation.

Read the recent article in the Mornington Peninsula News

Here.

Remember :

Save Westernport is urgently raising funds to engage expert witnesses to represent Westernport and challenge AGL at the Environment Effects Statement Panel Hearings next month.

We will be taking on the vested interests and limitless resources of the AGL corporation. The cost of providing marine and other experts, and legal representation—even by the good people at Environmental Justice Australia—are enormous.

But this is our one chance to make it clear to the Planning Panel: we want to see Westernport protected and valued as the priceless treasure that it is.

Please make a donation and help us make sure AGL’s irresponsible plans in Westernport are NOT APPROVED ! However big or small, if we pool the resources of our wonderful community, we can do this.

Contact secretary@savewesternport.org

 

‘Emphatic no’ to gas plan