Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summary sheet for Appeals against the EPA’s report and recommendations –

Attached are just a few problems with the EPA Report on James Price Point. There are many, many more issues that need closer inspection. If you would like to write an appeal, this document may help get you started.

You can have a look at the EPA Report here:

You can find out how to lodge an appeal here:,5507317&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

“James Price Point gas hub strategic assessment” (EPA Report 1444, July 2012)

The Wilderness Society : July 2012 :
This guide is intended to help people and organisations prepare appeals against the EPA’s report and recommendations on the proposed Kimberley (James Price Point) gas hub. Any member of the public can lodge an appeal HERE. The cost is $10. Appeals must be submitted via post or email by 5pm, Monday 30 July 2012.

Have a look at what environmental groups have previously told the EPA at:

Have a read through the EPA report and form your own views about what you consider might be missing.

What are your reasons for considering that the Environment Minister should reject the EPA’s recommendation?
Please read the below information which you might like to include in your appeal…
Process Issues:

EPA utterly fails to assess impacts of proposal
Reading the EPA report it is clear that the EPA has utterly failed to carry out a strategic environmental impact assessment of the proposed Browse LNG gas hub at James Price Point (JPP) and in so doing has breached its obligations under the Environment Protection Act. Time and time again in the absence of adequate and reliable information from the proponent (WA Department of State Development (DSD)) about the hub design and its impacts, the EPA simply gives DSD the benefit of the doubt and claims that “impacts can be managed provided conditions are complied with”. The EPA then sets out 29 ‘strict’ conditions which require DSD to submit 31 new environmental plans, reports, studies, surveys, strategies, protocols, programs and procedures. The public will have no involvement in this, despite these new documents covering key issues of public concern, e.g. water use.

Project plans concealed from public and altered, without any public input or assessment
Over the past 18 months since the Draft Strategic Assessment Report was released for public comment, people have continuously requested better information on the proposed extent, layout and impacts of the project. This included information on such basic issues as where the huge volume of freshwater required would be sourced from and its potential impacts on local aquifers, and the dimensions and impacts of required shipping channels, breakwaters and seawalls. Not only has this information been withheld, under the pretext that such ‘details’ will become public ‘later’ when an actual LNG project is submitted, but the public has just learned via the release of the EPA’s report, that the proponent has fundamentally changed the possible port design:

“More recent Precinct designs include an option where significant elements of the ‘Integrated marine facility’ (IMF) are excavated from the existing coastline resulting in an inland harbour where saltwater may extend to a distance of approx. 330 m inland from its current location under all tidal conditions. The presence of saltwater 330 m inland has potential to allow saltwater to intrude further into the aquifer than it does currently. The EPA is aware of physical interventions and other techniques to avoid and manage this issue and recommends that they be applied to detailed designs for derived proposals” (EPA p.129)
The lack of adequate information presented to the public on key issues, and the unannounced changing of project plans, means the EPA’s public assessment process has been a sham.

Unreliable studies, no peer review.
Most of the environmental studies carried out by the gas hub proponents are unreliable due to lack of sufficient time and poor study design. For example, as a result of poor study design, the proponent failed to identify beaches close to James Price Point (JPP) as important turtle nesting sites, mainly because they carried out surveys during non-nesting season. Similarly the proponent’s studies failed to identify endangered Bilbies in the JPP area, while community volunteers did. The proponent’s work on whales and dolphins was also strongly criticised by experts. These problems were compounded by the refusal of the proponents to submit their work to peer review by independent scientists, as was required under the Strategic Assessment Scoping Report (see Section 14, p180).

Despite serious flaws in most of its studies, the proponent was only required by the EPA on two occasions to submit its work to peer review (dinosaur tracksites and Bilbies) and only then after independent scientists and community volunteers had exposed the poor science in the original studies. The peer review of the proponent’s Bilby studies said, “[It] needs to be recognised that a number of the studies conducted within the James Price Point area were unsuited to document Bilby occurrence. This is because these surveys were untargeted to detect Bilby sign at a regional scale or the personnel were inexperienced in distinguishing sign”.

Environmental consultants with conflicts of interest
One of the main private environmental consultancy firms employed by the government was AECOM Ltd, which has so far been paid over $4.5 million for its JPP studies (Legislative Council Question on Notice 5127). AECOM has a serious potential conflict of interest in that it is lining up to earn millions more from the gas hub by becoming a ‘project partner’ in building parts of the gas hub infrastructure (e.g. a new highway from Broome to James Price Point). AECOM is notorious for having carried out surveys for Bilbies around the proposed gas hub and finding none, while a group of volunteers subsequently filmed colonies of Bilbies in the same area.

Assessment of alternative sites not done
“The Report [SAR] must include…an analysis of technically and economically viable gas processing options outside the Kimberley focussing on locations that already have substantial industrial infrastructure, inclusive of floating LNG.” (Browse LNG Strategic Assessment Agreement (2008))
Despite the requirement for an assessment of gas processing options outside the Kimberley, no serious attempt has been made by the proponent or EPA to conduct this assessment. Although the proponent lists a series of reports that discuss other options, such as piping the gas to existing facilities on the Burrup, or to Port Hedland, or using floating LNG, each of these reports was funded by the proponent using industry consultants and are clearly biased against non-Kimberley options. The only exception was the Commonwealth-funded GHD consultants report which concluded, “At first glance a significant number of sites along the Pilbara Coast present themselves as having some potential as sites for an LNG precinct. However, closer investigation reveals that extremely little on-the-ground information is available for these sites” (GHD 2009). Nothing was subsequently done by the proponent to change this situation.

Conflicted EPA Board makes mockery of process
The EPA Report is unreliable due to conflicts of interest on the EPA Board. At least 3 EPA Board members helped shape the way this project was assessed over the past several years – even though they were operating under known conflicts of interest. When the conflicted members were finally removed from the process, there was only one of the five EPA Board members left to make the decision, even though a legal quorum for the EPA Board is three members.

Environmental/Social Issues:
EPA failure to acknowledge global significance of Kimberley marine/coastal environment
Like the proponent of the gas hub, the EPA has utterly failed to acknowledge the global environmental significance of the Kimberley marine and coastal environment. This is despite studies referred to the EPA showing the region to be one of the most intact, healthy and rich marine systems left on the planet (see for example, Halpern B.S. et al, “A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems”, 2008).

Impact of water use; EPA fails to assess
If the gas refineries are approved they would suck up to 8GL/year (8 billion litres/yr) of water out of local aquifers. The government has done no studies to determine the amount of water in the aquifers and the reliance of ecosystems (e.g. monsoon vine thickets) on those aquifers. The EPA has no idea what will happen if 8GL/year is pulled for the aquifer. The EPA has fundamentally failed to assess this crucial ‘strategic’ factor.
“There is limited information on groundwater presented in the SAR as no dedicated studies had been undertaken at the time the SAR was released because access had not been gained for the drilling of test bores.” (EPA p. 122)

Monsoon Vine Thickets (MVT); EPA’s conclusions about impacts not supported by evidence
Despite acknowledging the significance of the James Price Point MVT, the EPA recommends 23% of this unique remnant rainforest patch be destroyed. No substantive work has been undertaken to assess the local impacts of clearing such a large area of this unique ecosystem at JPP or the wider impacts on the connected network of MVT’s along the Dampier Peninsula. The potential negative social impacts on Indigenous people through impacts to MVT’s have not been examined at all. The EPA report has failed to comprehend that there is no way to “cap” the loss of MVT, as it has attempted to do, because there is no way of knowing how much will be lost once the proponent starts drawing up to 8Gl/year of water from aquifers.

“Surface and groundwater flows that originate, at least in part, from the Precinct site are thus likely to be important to the maintenance of the Monsoon Vine Thicket that occurs within and south of the Precinct and to the drainage basin vegetation community. The SAR notes that the sensitivity of the groundwater regime of the superficial and Broome sandstone aquifers is unknown, but is likely to be high (DSD, 2010a).” (EPA p. 123)Birds; EPA fails to assess.

The EPA Report fails to mention birds at all. The threatened Gouldian Finch has been located in other parts of the Dampier Peninsula and is known to utilise Monsoon Vine Thickets. The EPA has failed to address this issue.

Dugongs; EPA’s conclusions about impacts not supported by the evidence
The EPA’s Report states that the permanent loss of seagrass habitat – essential for the local dugong population – will be 260 hectares while a far larger area is likely to be lost for up to five years. The EPA Report accepts DSD’s groundless assertions that such loss and disturbance will not have a significant impact on dugong populations, falsely assuming that dugongs will move elsewhere after the loss of this food resource. Evidence from other parts of Australia indicates that dugongs may simply die.

Humpback Whales; EPA’s conclusions about impacts not supported by the evidence
The Dampier Peninsula coast is the southern section of the world’s largest humpback whale nursery. Current research is showing that James Price Point is a significant area for whale calves. They are giving birth in the safety of this coast and then teaching their newborn to swim. Baby whales are unable to hold their breath for long or swim fast to avoid ship strike. The EPA Report fails to acknowledge or assess the impact that 1300 super-tankers per year (2600 movements), will have passing through whale migratory routes and nursery grounds. The latest land-based whale research conducted by the community suggests that the construction of the Port precinct will have a huge impact on whale nursery habitat, and neither the EPA, Woodside nor DSD are planning to put in place scientifically supported mitigation measures during humpback whale calving season. Also, the 34 million tonnes of dredge spoil from port construction is planned to be dumped on the whale migration path where Woodside claims 95% of whales are found (i.e. more than 6 km off James Price Point).

Dolphins; EPA has made assumptions which are not based on evidence
The EPA Report has failed to acknowledge that there are at least 4 species of dolphin utilising the Dampier Peninsula coast about which little is known. One of these dolphins is the Dwarf Spinner Dolphin which is otherwise unknown outside the Gulf of Thailand. Another is the rare and barely-studied Snubfin dolphin. All of these dolphins inhabit coastal waters and scientists acknowledge that the greatest pressure the dolphins face is coastal development. See Murdoch University’s reports on dolphins, whales and dugongs. As so little is known about the behaviour and distribution of these dolphins, it is not possible for the EPA to reach any conclusions about the impact which this proposal might have on dolphins.

Turtles; EPA misunderstands the science and threat
The EPA Report has failed to understand that turtles from Barrow Island feed at Quondong Point. The Quondong Point feeding grounds will be lost to dredging. The EPA Report has failed to consider the cumulative impacts on turtles. Turtles are under pressure from the Gorgon gas hub at their Barrow Island breeding grounds. The turtles will lose their Quondong feeding grounds to the James Price Point gas hub. The breeding ground at the Lacepedes will also be under pressure if there is an adverse incident at James Price Point. As all WA’s turtle species are endangered or vulnerable, the EPA Report fails to properly address the serious and potentially devastating impacts that the JPP gas hub will have on these turtle populations.

Sawfish; EPA fundamentally misunderstands ecology and makes erroneous assumptions
The EPA Report has failed to understand that endangered freshwater, dwarf and green sawfish are present along the Dampier Peninsula coast because this is a migratory pathway. The effect of putting an industrial precinct right in the middle of their inshore migratory pathway could have catastrophic consequences for these species which are highly sensitive to environmental pressures. Their populations have collapsed in other parts of Northern Australia and they are virtually extinct in South East Asia. With a 3-6 km breakwater extending from the lowest Astronomical tide, sawfish would have to travel near to Commonwealth waters to by-pass the gas precinct.

 Dinosaur trackways; EPA’s recommendations not feasible – tracks and Songline will be broken
The EPA has made a token attempt to protect the dinosaur trackways by recommending that the proponent avoid a small area just south of James Price Point. This recommendation will in fact do absolutely nothing to protect this National Heritage area as there are dinosaur trackways all along that coast and the EPA’s recommendation will assure the destruction of many of them either directly or through ‘incidental’ project-related damage and degradation. The Traditional Owner’s famous Lurujarri heritage trail and songline will be broken forever if this project goes ahead.

 Carbon emissions; EPA has failed to discharge its responsibility

This proposal, if approved and built to its full extent, would be responsible for a staggering 52% increase in WA’s greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA has recommended that the proponent try to keep carbon emissions to 0.26 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of LNG produced. This recommendation is next to impossible for the proponent to achieve as the Browse basin gas is known to be very CO2 intensive. The actual emissions are likely to be double the EPA’s ‘target’ - 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of LNG. The EPA has paid lip service to reducing carbon emissions – but has done nothing to ensure that this will actually happen.

The EPA has not set any ‘offset’ conditions for James Price Point because it did not want to impose any further imposts as the proponent will now be paying a carbon tax. This is a poor decision by the EPA because the carbon price of $23/tonne may be too low to effectively reduce emissions for this project and because the carbon tax may be repealed. The EPA’s stance on the issue of carbon emissions means that the EPA has failed to discharge its responsibilities in relation to carbon emissions.
 Bilby population; EPA has failed to comprehend their significance

The EPA Report erroneously assumes that bilbies can simply find other habitat elsewhere. Bilby populations have collapsed over the past 30 years, but community surveys found Bilbies at JPP. The EPA has no basis for assuming that an important population of a vulnerable species can simply find somewhere else to live, or that loss of the James Price Point population will have no broader implications.

 Dredging; EPA has failed to assess the social impacts of a degraded Cable Beach
The EPA Report has, for the first time, admitted that dredging could impact Broome’s prime tourist attraction: Cable Beach. The EPA has failed to conduct any kind of assessment on what a degraded Cable Beach will do to Broome’s tourism industry or to the recreational amenities of the people who live in Broome. With over 34 million cubic metres of dredging to be done over the first 21 months, this will impact all coastal marine life along the Dampier Peninsular.

 EPA conditions – changed to suit proponents
The EPA does not have the resources or the Ministerial backing required to monitor and enforce compliance with the 29+ “strict” conditions it is proposing for the gas hub. Given the scale of this project and the fact it is backed by the government and would be operated by several of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world, the public can have no confidence that the conditions will be ‘strictly’ implemented. Furthermore, the EPA has a record of changing conditions after they have been set, as a result of political lobbying and pressure by project proponents, e.g. Perth Hills quarry.

CONCLUSION The Environment Appeals Convenor must recommend that the Environment Minister reject the EPA’s report and recommendations as not based on science or the principles of ecologically sustainable development and the assessment process itself as a breach of the Environment Protection Act and Strategic Assessment Agreement.

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