Over the past month, I’ve presented and listened in to the Environment Effects Statement (EES) hearings for Viva Energy’s proposed gas terminal in Geelong.
As the hearings wrapped up last week, one thing was abundantly clear: with the huge community opposition and mounting evidence against their polluting gas plan, Viva has no social licence nor the technical arguments to proceed.
Viva’s gas import terminal is one of the biggest fossil fuel projects being proposed in Victoria. It would import up to 160 petajoules of gas, which would mean up to 600,000 tonnes of climate pollution each year! And that’s just from transporting the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and operating the terminal – not even counting the emissions when the gas is burned in homes and businesses.
Burning fossil gas is responsible for about 17% of Victoria’s climate pollution. Instead of building new polluting projects, we should be reducing gas demand by helping households switch to cleaner, cheaper electricity.
Thousands of Victorians and more than 150 local groups like Geelong Renewables Not Gas and Geelong Grammar School have spoken out against the project, including many who made submissions and spoke at the EES hearings.
The EES process is the strictest environmental assessment we have in Victoria – and our best chance to raise concerns that could ultimately stop the project proceeding. Together, we exposed just how damaging this project would be for our climate, the local marine environment and the safety of the community.
But throughout the EES, Viva has demonstrated a complete failure to listen to the community’s concerns as they push ahead with their polluting proposal. Here’s a summary of what we learnt through the hearings:
Viva deliberately excluded the largest single source of climate pollution from the project – emissions from transporting LNG in tankers to Geelong. It would import up to 160 petajoules of gas, which would mean up to 600,000 tonnes of climate pollution each year!
Viva COULD establish contractual regulations to reduce emissions (e.g. by excluding LNG cargos that are coming from far away). But we learnt they are choosing not to do this, to protect the “financial interests” of big gas companies they might work with.
Without proper mapping of the environment surrounding Viva’s proposal, it is impossible to assess the full impact the project would have on the local environment. This lack of evidence was a key point raised by the EPA. Viva also failed to include peer reviews on important areas like marine hydrology and ecology. These were the two issues where AGL’s Crib Point proposal faced the most problems!
As GeelongPort pointed out in their initial submission, Viva simply has not addressed the implications of major accident events for the safety of workers or the impacts of simultaneous operations at the port area.
This is totally unrealistic, and implies the gas industry would do nothing to cut emissions for another 20 years. It goes against climate science that says we need to urgently cut emissions this decade – and also ignores the Victorian government’s own policies to get off gas.
It’s taken hours of volunteer work and a massive few years for the Geelong community to build the momentum we have today. They’ve held rallies and events in packed town halls, commissioned reports showing there are far more jobs in renewables than gas, released films, blitzed the media and more.
The EES hearings might be finished, but the fight to stop this giant gas terminal from going ahead is far from over.
The Inquiry and Advisory Committee is currently considering all the information presented at the hearings and will prepare and submit their report to the Minister of Planning. After this, the Minister normally releases his decision in about 30 days. That means it’s more important than ever we keep speaking up!
Right now, we need to be rapidly scaling up investment in clean solar, wind and battery storage. Not building a new gas import terminal that would lock in our dependence on fossil gas for decades to come.