WA govt rejects EPA carbon neutral advice
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A recommendation by Western Australia's environmental watchdog that new emissions-intensive projects should be carbon neutral has swiftly been rejected by the state government.
The WA Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released updated guidelines on mitigating emissions from new or expanding projects, advising the state government require proposals with emissions higher than 100,000 tonnes a year be fully offset.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday the state government wanted to ensure the gas industry remained strong and had rejected the recommendation.
"We're not endorsing it," Mr McGowan told 6PR radio.
He said he wanted WA to be part of action on climate change but a nationally consistent approach was needed.
The federal government had not put any conditions on coal exports from Queensland or NSW but the proposal could damage WA's economy given it exports a lot of gas, which produces fewer emissions.
"The federal government needs to get off its hands and actually do something," Mr McGowan said.
EPA chair Tom Hatton said the recommendation "does colour the business case" but taking that into account was not the agency's remit.
"The government takes that into account and they weigh our advice against those factors," Mr Hatton told the broadcaster.
Mr Hatton said the agency called for a state climate policy two years ago and the WA government was committed to developing one but had not yet done so.
Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann labelled the recommendation "crazy".
"It would hurt the environment to the extent that it would make it harder for West Australian LNG to help reduce emissions around the world," the WA senator told Sky News.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia said it "applauded" Mr McGowan’s swift rejection of the EPA's recommendations
CME chief executive Paul Everingham said the government’s refusal to endorse the guidelines would give the state’s gas industry confidence that its multi-billion dollar projects and associated economic and social benefits to WA would not be put at risk.
“The government’s rejection of the EPA’s recommendations will reassure industry that the transition to a cleaner energy future, of which gas will play a major part, will not be jeopardised.
“We are pleased the Premier shares the CME’s view that climate policy, including emissions reduction, must be conducted at a national level.
“The WA economy cannot afford to lose tens of billions of dollars in investment that will flow from some of these gas projects, including Woodside’s $US11 billion Scarborough gas project and its $US20.5 billion Browse development, as well as Chevron’s $US34 billion Wheatstone LNG plant and its $US45 billion Gorgon LNG plant."
Shadow Environment Minister Steve Thomas said Mr McGowan appeared to have been dragged reluctantly to reject the proposal on live radio today, as both he and Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson said industry will be consulted.
“The premier was briefed on this a week ago and for him not to have all his ducks lined up before it was released publicly is a sure sign his government does not have a united response,” Mr Thomas said.
“The premier appears to have forgotten that every word from his government on these guidelines will be analysed by oil and gas companies as they decide whether to invest in WA.
“There is no such thing as an each way bet for these companies that are investing tens of billions into WA, they want absolute certainty about the environment regime they will be operating in.”