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, explaining the purpose of the Directions Hearing, and laying 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, 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 Proponents AGL, and pipeline company APA

– the Port of Hastings Development Authority

– the EPA 

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

Probably 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’.

There is concern that this might have influenced Minister Wynne’s decision to proceed with the EES in the midst of the difficulties of COVID-19, and escalating lockdown restrictions.

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, asking him to consider how 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 operate remotely, and just as when our submissions were written, AGL could benefit from the considerable challenges of COVID-19.

Witnesses for AGL have been able to visit the area for the past two years without restrictions, but our experts may not even have the chance to see the proposed locations before their evidence will be required at the Hearing. 
Groups including Save Westernport will have difficulty  advising their legal teams when neither can be present at 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 provide all the requested information.

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.

The IAC is accepting suggestions for sites that the Panel should visit until Friday September 25. Suggested sites should be marked up using this map book 

For more information 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 sites on French Island, Woolleys Beach and Warringine Park for members of the Panel to visit.

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.

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 horizon from nearly every vista and vantage point around the Bay.

This and other disastrous impacts and safety concerns are explained 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 in opposition to the AGL proposal.

These public submissions can be viewed here on the IAC website.

A controversial decision by Planning Panels Victoria has resulted in thousands of submissions not being included in the official tally.

The decision not to include several thousand submissions because they were lodged using an alternative government email address, has been disappointing. 
Understandably, people have been angered and confused, particularly because we know that the submissions were received before the deadline.

Though they won’t be counted as individual submissions, Planning Panels Victoria has said that they WILL be reviewed and the information they contain will be taken into account. 

The official total is still many times greater than numbers usually received for EES projects in Victoria, which indicates 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 by Environmental Justice Australia, but we are still short of our target to provide legal Counsel, and engage expert witnesses to challenge the 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 towards the costs of our expert witnesses and legal representation. 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, and ensure that the community is 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.

 

 

Coming Up

Did you know the AGL corporation will be holding their Annual General Meeting , AGM, on October 7 2020. ?

In previous years, members and supporters of Save Westernport have attended the AGM in order to ask awkward questions of the AGL Board in the presence of their shareholders.

The AGM is as an important opportunity to raise our concerns with shareholders and board members, about the lack of Social License and absence of community approval for the Crib Point proposal.

The hypocrisy of the AGL corporation’s widespread misrepresentation  of their image as a responsible, innovative company is legendary. 
Despite giving lipservice to energy innovation and admirable sounding Sustainability Policies, the truth is ofcourse,  in practice AGL is exactly opposite, and we aim to challenge them on this whenever we can.

AGL wants to prolong the country’s hopeless dependence on gas, because it provides them with such enormous profits. They do this by postponing the inevitable uptake of sustainable energy solutions by promoting new fossil fuels projects like Crib Point..

It’s likely that sustainable energy solutions would far more advanced, and could be ready to roll out now if not for AGL spending several years and hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to gain approval for their dangerous, inappropriate, irresponsible and out dated gas proposal at Crib Point. 

But companies like AGL are under increasing pressure from their own shareholders and insurers to get with the times and do what is required by the Climate emergency.

The emphasis they put on renewables in their own advertising demonstrates the unmistakable awareness from within the highest levels of their strategic planning departments.

They know exactly their shareholders realise gas is no transition fuel, and that they expect more. They want responsible action on climate, and meaningful investment in sustainable projects, rather than having just a symbolic commitment that manifests only in their ‘greenwashing’ and advertising.

This year the AGL AGM will be streamed online, due to current COVID restrictions.

Only shareholders are eligible to attend their AGM.
However if you or someone you know holds AGL shares, and would consider allowing your shareholder status to be used by someone wanting to ask a question at the AGM, it is your right to allow a proxy shareholder to attend the AGM on your behalf.

This is a legitimate and frequently used way to affect change in the corporate realm, used to great effect by groups like Sea Shepard, Market Forces and Friends of the Earth.

If you’d like to know more, please contact Save Westernport at  secretary@savewesternport.org

Save  Westernport and Environment Victoria are planning an Action  to protest online and send our message to Boardmembers, shareholders and the media, that this community will NEVER accept AGL’s plans to import fossil fuels in Westernport. 

We know we have the support of our local Mornington Peninsula Shire Council , and Bass Coast Council, who have each declared a Climate Emergency, and have voted to oppose AGL in Westernport.

In February 2020, the Bass Coast Shire Council Announced:

1. Council declares its strong opposition to the development of fossil fuel assets on Western Port and in particular, opposition to the AGL’s proposed Gas Import Jetty project for Crib Point.

2. That Council will write to the Premier advising him that:

2.1 Council has declared a climate emergency and is currently developing a comprehensive Climate Emergency Action Plan pursuing a community target of zero net emissions by 2030.

2.2. Council strongly opposes further fossil fuel developments in Victoria and is opposed to the further industrialisation of Western Port to transport them.

Watch this space for regular updates and details of our AGM plans. 

 

 

 

Save Westernport Submission against AGL’s Environment Effects Statement Lodged

Save Westernport Submission against AGL’s Environment Effects Statement Lodged

:

Save Westernport’s  Submission against AGL’s Environment Effects Statement has been lodged with EngageVic.

Our submission can now be viewed here

You can DONATE to support us at the EES Hearings against AGL 


Many Thanks to everyone who collaborated to produce this wonderful work, and to Chris and Jane from Save Westernport for bringing together the many contributions.

Thanks also to Victor and all Save Westernport’s campaign partners at Environment Victoria- EV, Westernport Peninsula Protection Council- WPPC, Phillip Island Conservation Council- PICS, and Victorian National Parks Association- VNPA, and to all our wonderful friends.

I am so encouraged by what we were able to achieve in just 40 days, under extremely difficult lockdown conditions. 

The next stage of the EES will be the Panel Hearings beginning on October 12.

Those of you who indicated in their submissions that they’d like to address the Panel directly will have the opportunity to do this via video link at the Hearings. 
Planning for the Panel Hearings will begin soon.

Remember, these Hearings will require us to go up against Energy giant AGL—to take on the limitless resources of a corporation with past convictions for ‘deceptive and misleading conduct’. 

But we have yet to reach our fundraising target.
Funds are urgently needed to secure the best legal support and expert witnesses to ensure 
the interests of our community are represented at the Hearings.
This will be essential to challenge AGL’s exploitative plans.

To contribute to this monumental effort, please consider…‘What Does Westernport Mean to Me..?.’

and PLEASE Donate Here.

By pooling our resources, however large or small, we can make sure those without a voice  are heard.

Donate Now to the No AGL Campaign

And let’s do this!!

Julia Stöckigt,

Secretary Save Westernport 

 

 

Still Time to Make a Submission

Still Time to Make a Submission

Making a Submission before September 1 is the best way to STOP AGL.
It’s our chance to have a say and stop the exploitation of our precious natural world.

You can write you own submission on the EngageVic website here 

OR

Write a ‘fast and furious’ submission  using Environment Victoria’s   Survey-to-Submission tool 

 

1.) To write your ‘fast and furious’ Environment Victoria submission follow the steps below:

Yesterday the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) decided that each submission must go through their site, so they have put another step in place:

1. Go to this link: https://environmentvictoria.org.au/build-submission

2.Fill out the survey and amend if necessary, then submit
Due to DELWP’s new requirement that all submissions must go through their EngageVic website, Environment Victoria will then email your submission back to you.

3. Once you have received your submission from EV go to the DEWLP site:
engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC  click on: Make your submission.

4. Answer their questions then copy and paste your submission into to the “Add your submission” box

Job done. (Thanks Rod Knowles)

2) If you can write your own, more detailed submission and/or would like to attend the Panel Hearings in person to have your voice heard, make sure you tick the box when submitting here:

3) Check out Environment Victoria’s tips on How to Make a Deadly Submission against AGL  here 

4) Last week Mornington Peninsula Shire Council voted unanimously to oppose AGL’s dangerous, unnecessary plans.
Council’s Submission against AGL is now online here.
You might find it helpful when writing your own submission.


They suggest writing about whatever point/s  you decide to make, whether that’s Marine Life, Safety, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Birds, etc using the words of the ‘Evaluation Objectives’.

The EVALUATION OBJECTIVES  are in the blue box at the start of each section of the Council’s submission..
Please feel free to copy and paste text from their online Submission, but to give it more value, they advise adding some of your own perspective and words.
MPSCouncil’s submission starts on page 4  here.

We’ve heard the number of Submissions AGAINST AGL that Minister Wynne and the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) have already received has Blown the previous record right out of the water !

Let’s keep going, and really send the message home—
There’ll be NO AGL IN WESTERNPORT !

Stop AGL Westernport Summer Action Launch

Stop AGL Westernport Summer Action Launch

Come to our
Stop AGL
Westernport Summer
Action Launch!

Join us at Somers Hall for afternoon tea
with others who care about
our precious and unique Westernport environment. 

Westernport needs you! 

Find out about our campaign to protect
the Bay’s Internationally recognized wetlands,
its spectacular creatures and ecosystems
from the threat of AGL’s heavy industry.

Sunday December 1st, 2019

2-4pm 

afternoon tea

Somers Hall, RW Stone Pavilion,
68 Camp Hill Road
Somers

                                        *Please Note the 2pm start time, not Midday as reported elsewhere*