With public hearings into AGL’s proposed gas import terminal at Crib Point in Westernport Bay finishing this week, a broad alliance of community organisations have released a briefing paper summarising new information revealed during the inquiry.
Lawyers for environment groups, local councils and Traditional Owners presented their closing submissions outlining their concerns on the afternoon of Wednesday 16 December.
The briefing paper draws on evidence from expert witnesses who appeared at the inquiry, and reveals that AGL has significantly underestimated the project’s likely impact on the environment, climate change, tourism and the local community.
This new evidence reaffirms that the project is entirely inappropriate for an internationally significant wetland and provides no confidence that AGL is capable of managing the serious risks to the community or environment.
Victorian National Parks Association nature campaigner Shannon Hurley said:
“AGL’s project will continuously expose Westernport’s fragile marine wildlife to toxic chlorine by-products, and new evidence shows they’ve significantly underestimated the area affected.”
“Toxic chlorine by-products have the devastating potential to build up in the marine food chain. We cannot have our whales, seals and penguins swimming around in an artificial swimming pool.”
“Plankton are the building blocks of this food chain and AGL’s modelling also significantly underestimated how much plankton would be sucked into the floating gas terminal.”
Environment Victoria campaigns manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said:
“During the hearings we learned that AGL wasn’t calculating the full climate impact of their terminal according to international standards.”
“AGL tried to argue that emissions from the gas they import shouldn’t be counted if it’s burned by households or businesses later. But the only reason the gas would be imported is so AGL can sell it to be burned – you can’t pretend those emissions aren’t a consequence of the project.”
“After an expert witness pointed out their error, AGL’s own expert acknowledged this would make the true climate impact of their gas import terminal 17 times higher.”
Save Westernport spokesperson Julia Stockigt said:
“AGL has treated the local community with contempt and we’ve lost all trust that they can manage the risks of this project. Every day we’ve heard new details of what could go wrong, from the lack of an oil spill management response plan to the destruction of Indigenous shell middens and discharge of toxic chlorine.”
“People are fed up, exhausted and angry at the lack of transparency. The community expects the inquiry panel to apply the precautionary principle that governs internationally significant wetlands like Westernport and recommend against the project.”
Phillip Island Conservation Society president Jeff Nottle said:
“During the hearings, the Bass Coast Shire Council’s tourism impact study revealed the project will clearly cost the Phillip Island economy eco-tourism income and local jobs. But AGL won’t bear or even recognise these costs.”
Westernport & Peninsula Protection Council Secretary Karri Giles said:
“Evidence at the inquiry revealed that building the gas pipeline from Crib Point to Pakenham would likely spread cinnamon fungus, posing an unacceptable threat to asparagus businesses in Koo Wee Rup and high-status bushland.”
“The pipeline works would also spread amphibian chytrid fungus, a threat to many species including the endangered growling grass frog.”
Lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia have been instructing the barristers representing environment groups at the hearings.