16/07/2012 - 11:31

Browse gets EPA green light

16/07/2012 - 11:31

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Browse gets EPA green light
EPA chairman Paul Vogel.

The Environmental Protection Authority has approved the proposed $30 billion liquefied natural gas hub at James Price Point, imposing 29 strict conditions on the proposal.

The announcement comes after weeks of delays including Environment Minister Bill Marmion seeking legal advice on the appropriateness of the decision after four of the five EPA members stood aside from the inquiry citing conflicts of interest.

Speaking to media this morning EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel said the assessment of the proposal has been incredibly thorough and its level of complexity was unprecedented.

“The EPA has today recommended the strict conditional approval of the Browse liquefied natural gas precinct at James Price Point 60km north of Broome,” Dr Vogel said.

“This has been the largest and most complex assessment of a strategic proposal ever undertaken by the EPA in its 40 year history and has resulted in 29 rigorous conditions (being set).

“Acting under delegated authority of the EPA board I alone made the final recommendation decision to the minister for environment when it became clear earlier in the year that the other members of the EPA board were conflicted.”

Key conditions in the EPA’s report include the protection of marine fauna and habitat from dredging, the protection of Bilby habitat and the protection of dinosaur footprint tracks.

The conditions also include suspending marine pile driving and blasting at night during the peak migration of Humpback whale pods and that all dredged channels and wharves are wholly contained within the precinct area.

The Browse Basin will produce up to 50 million tonnes of LNG per year. 

Dr Vogel said the level of community debate over the project had been unprecedented in communities across WA.

“It has been a massive project, it has been a challenge for the EPA and a challenge for everybody involved in this project, he said.

“It’s the toughest thing that we have done in 40 years but I stand by the decision.”

Environment Minister Bill Marmion will now decide along with his federal counterpart if the proposal will be implemented.

Earlier today Mr Marmion approved the EPA making a decision regarding the assessment of the Browse project.

“Based on the advice received from the State Solicitor’s Office, I have approved the EPA making a delegation specific to the assessment of the Browse LNG Precinct,” Mr Marmion said.

“I believe the EPA has taken the appropriate course of action and have confidence in the integrity of the EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel, to provide me with informed advice and recommendations on the project.”

However Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert has slammed the report and said environmental assessment had reached a new low point in WA.

"Granting conditional approval condemns James Price Point to industrialisation with dramatic consequences to the Kimberley and all its significant environmental and cultural features," she said.

“While the EPA has identified a significant number of issues that need to be addressed, including the marine and landscape impacts, greenhouse gases, heritage concerns and issues about ground water they then failed to adequately
assess them.

“Most of the science and other information that these recommendations are based on has already been heavily criticised – this includes the failure to find bilbies or to recognise the miniature spinner dolphins, the underplaying of the
dinosaur footprints, and impacts on the marine environment.

Wilderness Society WA coordinator Peter Robertson said the EPA decision was not credible or legitimate.

"Under section 11 of the Environmental Protection Act  the independent board is required to hae a quoram of at least three in order to make a decision but the Authority and Environment Minister Marmion have used a loophole to thwart the intent of the Act and try to railroad through an approval," Mr Robertson said. 

The report will now be subject to a two week public appeal period.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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