Late entry adds pressure to gas plan

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YEARS of car stickers, protests and petitions are about to culminate with lengthy submissions against the floating gas import terminal planned at Crib Point by power company AGL.

The state government has announced that the environment effects statement for the gas terminal and a 57 kilometre pipeline to Pakenham is open for public comment until 26 August.

However, the process could be disrupted by Viva Energy’s announcement that it too wants to develop a gas import terminal at its Geelong refinery.

A rival power supplier to AGL, Viva sees the refinery as establishing Geelong as a future “energy hub” for Victoria and South East Australia.

Viva’s plans include extending an existing pier to accommodate the floating regasification and storage unit (FSRU) but would only require the need for 6.5km of new pipeline to connect with the existing gas transmission system.

An independent panel will assess submissions on AGL’s Crib Point project before making recommendations to Planning Minister Richard Wynne. The final decision will be made by state and federal governments.

In August 2018, Ports Minister Luke Donnellan indicated that the state government was likely to approve AGL’s plan (“Govt support for gas plan” The News 21/8/18). “I support the proposal to bring gas in through the port of Hastings,” Mr Donnellan told state parliament, predicting AGL’s proposal to import gas would “shake out the marketplace in Victoria”.

Hastings Liberal MP Neale Burgess has opposed the gas terminal as has his federal colleague, Flinders MP Greg Hunt.

Environment Victoria says Australia is the world’s largest exporter of LNG and the terminal is aimed at “helping AGL sell more gas” and will not lead to any reduction in gas prices but will increase “climate pollution”.

“It threatens Western Port’s marine life, local ecosystems including Ramsar-listed wetlands, and local businesses,” the group’s website states.

Mornington Peninsula-based Save Western Port says, “there is nothing that AGL can do to tweak the project that would make it acceptable”.

“Rather than helping us ‘transition from fossil fuels’ as they claim, the Crib Point project would keep us burning gas for the next 20 years.”

Save Westernport, Environment Victoria and Mornington Peninsula Shire are all urging peninsula residents to make submissions about the project.

The shire will meet on 17 August to decide its position on AGL’s proposal, although individual councillors have previously expressed concern.

In a news release last week, the shire said the EES had been required “due to the potential for serious impacts on the internationally significant Western Port Ramsar site, listed migratory species, listed threatened species and ecological communities”.

The shire has also released a draft plan for the “coastal country town” of Crib Point, that aims to “ensure that new development does not have a detrimental impact on port related uses or limit road transport connections for port related uses”.

The Port of Hastings Port Development Strategy 2018 sees “the focus of development in this area [remaining] with bulk liquids and gases with pipeline connections to major storage and distribution outlets”.

AGL’s plan includes mooring a 290-metre long FSRU that would process liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sent through a pipeline to Pakenham.

For more information on AGL’s proposal and to make a submission visit: gasimportprojectvictoria.com.au

First published in the Western Port News – 8 July 2020

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