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. Community groups are concerned that the proposed gas project will irreversibly damage this vitally important ecosystem.
Energy companies, AGL and APA, propose a new facility for importing and regasifying liquefied natural gas (LNG) and supplying it to the gas transmission network.
The proposal comprises two main components:
- gas import jetty works at Crib Point, including the mooring of a floating storage and regasification unit (FRSU) in Westernport Bay; and
- 57 kilometres of pipeline works from Crib Point to Pakenham, involving the removal of native vegetation across a range of Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs).
In light of the potential for significant environmental effects, an Environment Effects Statement (EES) was prepared for the project.
The EES was released for public display on 2 July 2020, with public submissions closing on 26 August 2020. The public exhibition period, in which members of the community had 40 days to review more than 10,000 pages of complex technical reports to prepare their submissions, was particularly challenging as it coincided with the imposition of Stage 3 and Stage 4 restrictions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As reported in The Age, we wrote to Minister Wynne urging him to exercise his discretionary powers under the Environment Effects Act 1978 to pause the public exhibition process until the lifting of lockdown restrictions. The request was refused.
An Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) has now been appointed to review all public submissions. The IAC will also hold formal public hearings for 6-8 weeks, commencing on 12 October 2020. Following the public hearings, the IAC will provide a report to the Minister for Planning which will set out its conclusions on the potential environmental effects of the project, their significance and acceptability.
EJA will be strongly opposing the project at the public hearings, arguing that the environmental effects of the project are unacceptable.
Further information about the Crib Point gas import terminal and pipeline project EES, including access to all public submissions, will be available at Engage Victoria.