NEWS 19 December 2020 |
This week has seen the final week of a mammoth 10-weeks of public hearings putting AGL’s proposal for a hulking great big gas terminal in Westernport Bay under scrutiny.
Victorian National Parks Association has been working with other environment and community groups to speak up for one of our state’s most special and sensitive marine environments during this time.
We have put forward our experts to talk to the Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) (‘the panel’) overseeing the Environmental Effects Statement Hearings (EES), of the impact on marine ecology, chlorine toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, safety hazards and oil spills.
Our legal team and scientific experts have done a stellar job exposing the threats this risky project poses to Westernport Bay’s protected Ramsar-listed wetlands, seals, penguins, dolphins, whales, fish, marine national parks and conservation reserves.
Our team has helped reveal new information about the impacts of the project including:
- Marine wildlife and seabed communities would be continually exposed to chronic toxicity from chlorine toxicants and the size of the impact area is likely to be much larger than AGL originally estimated.
- After AGL denied that the nearby seagrass meadows and other intertidal habitats would not be close enough to be affected, evidence clearly showed they were.
- Failure of AGL to properly assess impacts of marine wildlife from light, underwater noise, chlorine toxicants, and the amount of plankton sucked into the FSRU ship.
- No modelling of oil spills or the potential impact a spill would have on coastal habitats (mangroves, saltmarsh, intertidal and emergent seagrass meadows and mudflats), which could impact the shoreline in under an hour, and spread over the whole bay over time.
- AGL’s significant under-estimation of the likely carbon emissions arising from the project.
- Failure to follow Victorian best practice guidelines for coastal soil testing
- No convincing rationale for the project in terms of the need for gas to justify the need for the project
We could not have done this without you backing us, and for that we thank you. Whether you donated to the cause, put in submissions, or tuned in to the public hearings, your support is greatly appreciated.
Although the public hearings have now come to an end, there is still plenty of work to do.
The panel now has the immense task of preparing their report from the evidence they have heard over the past 10 weeks. They will make findings on the potential environmental effects of the project, their significance and acceptability, and provide a report setting out their findings and recommendations to the Minister for Planning by the end of February 2021.
The final decision on the acceptability of the environmental effects of the project will still be in the hands of the Victorian Planning Minister. However, another significant decision which will decide the future of Westernport Bay lies with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), and is known as the ‘works approval’.
The hearings have revealed that a works approval cannot be granted for the project, as it involves the discharge of wastewater into waters of high conservation value, which is contrary to state policy.
Early in the new year it will be critical to let the state government know that Westernport Bay is too precious to risk. We will be in touch with more ways you can stay involved in protecting our beautiful and beloved Bay. Subscribe to campaign updates here.