Barnett Browse shift angers EPA

Daniel Mercer, The West Australian
Updated December 27, 2012, 2:40 am


WA’s environmental watchdog has accused the Barnett Government of undermining confidence in the State’s green approvals process by removing limits on carbon pollution from the proposed Browse LNG development.


Environmental Protection Authority chairman Paul Vogel said lifting pollution conditions on the $40 billion Kimberley gas hub could lead to worse environmental outcomes.


Environment Minister Bill Marmion reversed more than a decade of precedent last month when he largely exempted Browse proponents from conditions to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.

The West Australian © Accused: Premier Colin Barnett at James Price Point. Picture: Steve Ferrier/ The West Australian


Under the EPA’s recommended conditions, proponents had to subject their emissions performance to an independent review, which would be made public.


Explaining his decision, Mr Marmion said the carbon tax made the conditions redundant and that management of greenhouse gases was a matter for the Federal Government.


But Dr Vogel said many of the restrictions that were removed complemented rather than duplicated the carbon tax.


He said some of the axed conditions were important to ensure companies were held to high levels of accountability.


There was also less pressure on the proponents to cut emissions without the conditions.


It was particularly important with Browse, he said, because the project would lift WA’s total greenhouse gas emissions up to 52 per cent above 2007 levels if it reached capacity. “There’s still a role for the State Government in maintaining public confidence in the environmental performance of proponents, particularly when they have large greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.


The comments come after the EPA last week released advice to the minister urging him to retain greenhouse conditions on Chevron’s Wheatstone project off Onslow in the Pilbara. A decision by Mr Marmion is expected soon.


Conservation Council of WA spokesman Jamie Hanson said Mr Marmion was using a dubious argument to sidestep his responsibilities as Environment Minister. Shadow environment minister Sally Talbot said the Government’s approach to the issue was ad hoc.


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