Mangroves Westerport Bay, Victoria

Mangroves Westerport Bay, Victoria.

The issue

AGL is proposing to build a gas import terminal at Crib Point in Westernport Bay, southeast of Melbourne. Westernport Bay is recognised as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is home to vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered whales, turtles, fish and waterbirds.

The proposal comprises of gas import jetty works to provide for the continuous mooring of a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU). The FSRU would receive liquefied natural gas (LNG) via shipments from interstate or overseas, then convert this LNG back into gas for distribution via a new pipeline (to be built by APA) running almost 60 kilometres from Crib Point to Pakenham.

The clients

EJA is representing the following environment groups:

  • Environment Victoria (EV): an independent charity that campaigns to solve the climate crisis and build a thriving, sustainable society that protects and values nature.
  • Save Westernport: an independent community group which exists to safeguard Westernport Bay’s critical habitat and encourage responsible economic activity to ensure a healthy environment for all life.
  • Victorian National Parks Association: a not-for-profit organisation working to protect Victoria’s unique natural environment and biodiversity through the establishment and effective management of national parks, conservation reserves and other measures.
People protesting holding signs saying Stop AGL and respect Ramsar

Community opposition to AGL’s proposed gas terminal. Image: Save Westerport

What are the concerns?

Our clients are concerned that if this gas import terminal goes ahead, it could irreversibly damage local marine life and help fuel the climate crisis.

Submissions opposing the project also include submissions from federal MP Greg Hunt, several shire councils ( Mornington, Bass Coast and Cardinia), recreational fishing peak bodies, tourism operators, local business owners, environment and climate groups. All submissions can be found here.

The submissions

The environmental assessment for this project has generated an unprecedented number of public submissions. More than 6058 submissions are publicly available on the IAC website. The previous record for most submissions to a Victorian EES was the Mornington Safe Harbour project with 2018 submissions.

The hearings

A joint Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) was appointed to consider the EES and submissions and to provide recommendations to the Minister for Planning. All documents relating to the hearings, including public submissions, can be found here. The hearings are being held online for 10 weeks, from Monday 12 October to 17 December 2020. The timetable is published on the IAC website, available here.

What is EJA’s role?

EJA lawyers are acting for Environment Victoria, Save Westernport and the Victorian National Parks Association throughout the public hearings. Together with a team of barristers, EJA lawyers are making submissions, cross-examining AGL and APA’s experts, and leading evidence to make the case that the project is not environmentally acceptable.

Back in 2018, EJA lawyers also wrote to the project proponents and the Victorian Planning Minister and called for an Environmental Effects Statement to be undertaken. This was successful and the EES was subsequently prepared.

What happens after the hearings?

During the public hearings, the Inquiry and Advisory Committee will hear from the proponent (AGL and APA) and those who made submissions as part of the public exhibition of the EES. Parties will make submissions, lead evidence from experts and cross-examine experts from opposing parties.

At the end of the public hearings, the IAC will produce a written report for the Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne. The IAC’s report will contain its conclusions about the acceptability of the environment effects of the project.

Upon receiving the IAC’s Report, the Minister will then make an assessment on the environmental effects of the project. The Minister’s Assessment will state whether or not the project has an acceptable level of environmental effects.

Media

3CR – Saving Westernport: How a determined community stopped AGL’s plan for a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit in Westernport Bay

Hear EJA be thanked in a speech from our from community allies, as we celebrated this important win.