AGL Energy’s controversial plan to build a new gas import terminal and reprocessing plant in Victoria’s Western Port bay has been rejected by the state government due to its “clear” and “unacceptable” environmental impacts.
AGL chief Brett Redman revealed the news at the company’s investor day event on Tuesday, in which it was announced that the major gen-tailer would split its business in two, to better deal with the accelerating clean energy transition.
The decision was then confirmed by the state Labor government, which said it had ruled that marine discharges from the proposed AGL and APA project would have had unacceptable effects on the local environment, which is listed as a Ramsar wetland of international significance.
“It’s very clear to me that this project would cause unacceptable impacts on the Western Port environment and the Ramsar wetlands – it’s important that these areas are protected,” said state planning minister Richard Wynne in a statement on Tuesday morning.
“This has been an exhaustive, open and transparent process and this is the right outcome for the local community, the environment and Victoria as a whole.”
AGL had intended to build the Crib Point Jetty gas import terminal as a potential solution to a forecast shortage of gas supply across Australia’s southern states – it was estimated that the project could supply a further 160 petajoules of natural gas each year into the state’s gas market.
The project had proposed to install a floating storage and regasification unit to receive gas imports which will be processed onshore at a Crib Point Receiving Facility. It also would have required construction of 57km of pipeline to link the gas import terminal and processing facilities to the mains gas network.
But the project has been clouded by significant environmental concerns around the impact on the area’s internationally recognised wetlands, not to mention its broader impact on the acceleration of dangerous climate change – as well as questions around Australia’s dysfunctional gas market.
As RenewEconomy reported in August of last year, the project set a new record for the number of submissions made in response to the Victorian Government’s Environment Effects Statement (EES) process, which was being overseen by an Inquiry and Advisory Committee appointed by the Victorian government.
“With this extraordinary level of concern about the environmental impact of AGL’s plan, it’s clear locals don’t want this polluting gas terminal going ahead,” Environment Victoria campaigns manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said at the time.
Minister Wynne said the decision had been based on the EES produced by AGL and APA Group, the around 6,000
public submissions in response to the EES, and a report into the findings of the statement by an independent Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC), which was submitted in late February.
AGL said in a short statement on Tuesday that it was reviewing and considering its position on the minister’s determination and would provide an update on the impact on the project once that assessment was complete.
The company said estimates of total committed or incurred expenditure on the project to date came to roughly $130 million.