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

‘Art is in Our Nature’, MP News article & more

‘Art is in Our Nature’, MP News article & more

The work of 54 acclaimed contemporary artists comes together in this exciting exhibition to increase awareness of the campaign to stop AGL’s proposed gas import terminal from being approved at Crib Point, and to raise urgently needed funds for Save Westernport Inc to mount a legal challenge in partnership with Environment Victoria and the Victorian National Parks Association.

‘I reached out to the broader art community and was struck by the incredibly generous response of artists. Many have personal connections to the Mornington Peninsula, and it has been heart-warming to hear their stories. Our community is passionate about this issue and the broader community is as well.’

– Penelope Gebhardt, Curator

 

Read our article in the latest Mornington Peninsula News, click on the image