Features, Oil & Gas Leaks

Pipeline approval fails pub test

Fossil Fool Bulletin • 3 December 2019

The Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) has raised the alarm at the lack of assessment of climate change impacts from the Woodside Burrup Hub LNG project, saying that Woodside was ‘gaming the approval process’ to avoid scrutiny on the largest and most polluting fossil fuel project in Australia.

The Council was responding to the release of an approval for the first major component of the Burrup Hub, known as the ‘Burrup interconnector pipeline’. It is the first major approval of at least seven components of the Burrup Hub which includes the controversial Browse and Scarborough gas fields.

Significant legal questions

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said the approval did not pass the pub test and potentially raised significant legal questions about the way the Burrup Hub was being assessed by the WA Government.

“It is beyond belief that Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel project is being assessed and approved in multiple stages, without any overall consideration of its impacts on the climate, on World Heritage rock art, or on Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.

“The purpose of the interconnector pipeline, as stated by Woodside, is to facilitate the processing of more gas. That necessarily means more pollution, yet the Minister and the EPA have completely failed to take that into consideration in their assessment.”

The CCWA and Friends of Australian Rock Art appealed the EPA’s recommendation for approval of the pipeline in June, raising concerns about the lack of assessment of carbon emissions and other pollution affecting the Murujuga rock art on the Burrup Peninsula. Minister Dawson dismissed the appeals in October, accepting arguments by Woodside and the EPA that pollution did not need to be assessed because annual emissions would not increase.

“It is not just the annual pollution that matters, but how long this pollution continues. It is basic undeniable physics that carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere. Each year, more pollution pushes our climate into more and more dangerous territory.

“This pipeline approval paves the way for Woodside to extend the life of their highly polluting LNG processing on the Burrup for decades. This will result in hundreds of millions of tonnes of additional carbon being pumped into the atmosphere.”

Fastest-growing pollution source

Recently, new analysis released by CCWA and the Clean State project revealed that LNG processing by Woodside and Chevron is the state’s largest and fastest-growing pollution source, cancelling out the benefits of all renewable energy installed across the whole country. At full production, pollution from the Burrup Hub is estimated to be around four times the pollution from the proposed Adani coal mine.

“Woodside has separated the Burrup Hub project into at least seven different parts, in a way that hides the overall environmental and climate impacts. We are deeply alarmed that the EPA and Minister are letting this company get away with this underhanded approach,” Verstegen said.

Premier accused of doing a deal

CCWA is not the only voice raising concerns about the approval process for the Burrup Hub. Speaking in Parliament, ex-Liberal leader Mike Nahan has accused the Premier of ‘doing a deal’ with Woodside on pollution.

“If these projects go ahead, they will make a huge contribution to the total volume of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in WA…Has [the Premier] done a deal with Woodside about CO2 emissions or not? He might give them an exemption, but if he does that and he meets his policy requirements, other projects will have to pick up the load and compensate.” Nahan said.

Verstegen said “It is not only grossly irresponsible to ignore carbon pollution from an environmental perspective but is misleading for investors in these projects, and unfair on the taxpayers and businesses which will inevitably have to pick up the bill for Woodside’s pollution in the future.

“If we are going to achieve net-zero emissions, as the Paris Agreement requires and the WA government has promised, then every tonne of pollution released by Woodside will have to be balanced by deeper cuts somewhere else in WA.

“We will be seeking legal advice on the way this approval has been granted and what this means for the Burrup Hub assessment process. It clearly raises serious questions about the approach that is being taken, and we will not stand by while WA’s biggest polluters game the environmental assessment process to avoid scrutiny of projects that breach the Paris Agreement and do major harm to the climate” concluded Verstegen.

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