Gas project facing wetlands hurdle
State government attempts to bring energy prices down in Victoria with the help of an AGL gas import facility near Phillip Island are facing a huge challenge from a residents group which says the floating terminal will threaten Ramsar-recognised wetlands.
As the Andrews government heads to an election promising to lower power prices, Mornington Peninsula residents say a plan to build a floating gas import facility and pipeline at Crib Point will put the wetlands, and plant and wildlife close to Phillip Island, at risk.
The Save Western Port group met AGL representatives on Saturday and heard details of the plan, including a floating 300m vessel to convert liquefied gas into natural gas at Crib Point, on Western Port.
Residents say they are concerned about the impacts of the regasification vessel on the bay.
The vessel uses seawater to help warm the LNG back into a gas form, and then returns the seawater, with trace amounts of chlorine, into the sea about 7C cooler. Residents want the government to commit to an independent environmental assessment of the project, alongside the standard environmental assessment process, before considering whether the company can go ahead with the project.
“To turn the LNG into useable form, a 300m-long gas factory ship will suck in more than 450 million litres of seawater a day and return it both chlorinated and colder. Nobody knows what effect this will have on the bay and its wildlife,” Save Western Port member Louise Page said. “If the approvals process excludes an extensive, independent environmental assessment, it will be plain that the Andrews government is hedging its bets when it comes to Victoria’s energy future.”
Planning Minister Richard Wynne says the assessment process has just started, with AGL lodging its environmental effects statement on September 10.
He said the government would first assess the environ- mental impacts of the project before starting to assess the more general planning application. “This documentation will be carefully considered before any decision is made, as the community would expect,” Mr Wynne said.
The project is the key plank of a slew of gas market reforms unveiled last year to bring down energy prices in Victoria.
On Friday, Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said the government needed to speed up the environmental assessment of AGL’s plan before any preliminary works were allowed to occur. “We urgently need a full environmental effects statement to ensure Western Port is not sacrificed for AGL’s gain,” Mr Wakeham said.
Save Western Port residents action group members Louise Page and Dale Stohr at Crib Point, Victoria