Friday, December 19, 2008

EPA snubs Premier's choice for LNG hub

The state environment watchdog has rejected Premier Colin Barnett's preferred location for a liquefied natural gas hub in the Kimberley, saying nearby settlements are likely to be affected by emissions. The Environmental Protection Authority today released its advice for a multi-user LNG processing precinct that will process gas from the Browse Basin.

Four sites were shortlisted by the state government and the Kimberley Land Council, which represented the traditional land owners, with Anjo Peninsula, Gourdon Bay, James Price Point and North Head named as suitable areas.

Premier Colin Barnett had previously named North Head as his preferred location. Today the EPA recommended Gourdon Bay, south of Broome, and James Price Point, north of Broome on the Dampier Peninsula, as the two sites where environmental risks and impacts are likely to be manageable. "The other two sites, North Head and Anjo Peninsula are not considered suitable for large scale industrial development from an environmental point of view, Anjo peninsula also has wildness values that would be threatened," EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.

'North Head has nearby settlements likely to be affected by emissions and whale calving and resting grounds immediately offshore.'In formulating the report the EPA has taken into account advice on the size of precinct that may be needed as, once established, the site is likely to attract further large proposals in the future.'For James Price Point the risk of future expansion being significantly constrained is likely to be low, at Gourdon Bay future expansion may be limited by the frontage available with direct access to deep water if the precinct is laid out with jetties south of Cape Latouche Treville." Dr Vogel stressed that Gourdon Bay and James Price Point have not been subject to formal environmental assessment.

A formal environmental assessment of a strategic proposal will be undertaken to fulfil this requirement for whichever site is chosen, Dr Vogel said. Yesterday, Mr Barnett said a decision on the site will be made before Christmas with a meeting with the KLC scheduled later for this week, depending on cyclone activity.

The Premier also did not rule out compulsory land acquisition for the LNG hub development. "...without being dramatic, if this land is not secured by the State and then available to be leased out to proponents of LNG, then there will be no LNG project in the Kimberley and there will be no benefits for the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, and there will be no benefits for the wider economy of the Kimberley, and that's the bottom line,"

Mr Barnett said. "One project's been lost, I don't intend to see a second one being lost." In September, Inpex chose the Northern Territory ahead of WA for the construction of an LNG facility for its Ichthys project.

Woodside Petroleum is evaluating potential sites for its Browse Basin project, with the LNG hub as one option. The company is also evaluating the option to process the gas at its North West Shelf operation or its Pluto LNG project.

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