Does it make sense for Australia, the world’s biggest gas exporter, to start importing the stuff? What if it damages a unique marine ecosystem and Ramsar-listed wetlands? And aren’t we supposed to be transitioning away from fossil fuels anyway?
These are awkward questions for AGL, Australia’s biggest climate polluter. They want to build a huge gas terminal at Crib Point in Westernport Bay, about 80 kilometres from Melbourne. The terminal would receive shipments of liquefied gas from interstate or overseas, store it, convert it and send it through a 60-kilometre pipeline across some of Victoria’s most productive farmland to Pakenham on Melbourne’s outskirts.
It’s a disastrous idea. It would compromise farmland, threaten the marine ecosystem of Westernport Bay, ramp up climate pollution and prolong Victoria’s dependence on dirty gas. Macquarie Bank reports it wouldn’t even reduce prices, because importing and processing gas is expensive. It seems the only beneficiaries would be AGL.
Australia already produces more gas than it uses. Energy analysts and politicians, including federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, agree AGL’s project is a sign Australia’s gas market is broken. Though whether they oppose the project is another matter.
Community action is having a big impact
Together with a coalition of environment and local groups we have already managed to delay AGL’s plans. Last year, you sent emails, signed petitions, called talkback radio and attended a huge rally outside AGL’s Annual General Meeting to make sure our message was heard. In October 2018, Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced that AGL must complete a full Environmental Effects Statement (EES) – the strictest requirement we have. AGL had wanted to start construction this year, but in February the Australian Financial Review reported that the EES has delayed AGL’s decision to go ahead until 2020.
Local opposition to the project has been gaining momentum. Community groups have been pressuring AGL, meeting politicians and coordinating local moves to fight back. For example in January Save Westernport hosted the Peninsula’s Biggest Paddle Out, a peaceful protest against the terminal, with hundreds of locals paddling from Shoreham into the bay. The Westernport Festival also turned down AGL sponsorship over concerns about the project.
Where to next?
Together we’re pushing AGL to cancel this disastrous project by showing them that it will damage their brand and turn off shareholders and customers. We’re supporting communities in Westernport Bay and along the pipeline to fight back. And we’ll tell the Andrews government Victorians won’t accept polluting gas imports. The government needs to help Victorians reduce gas use and plan for a gas-free clean economy.
How you can help:
This article appeared in Environment Victoria News, Issue 31, Autumn 2019.
AGL have a dirty plan to turn Westernport Bay into a massive gas import terminal. Join the campaign to stop this damaging project.