PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Australian oil and gas major Woodside has called for government intervention in the new greenhouse guidelines put forth by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), warning that the guidelines could jeopardise a 2020 investment decision on the Browse, Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 projects.
Speaking at the AOG conference in Perth, Woodside COO Meg O’Neill said that it was “disappointing and concerning” that the EPA had issued the guidelines without industry consultation.
“Alarm bells should be ringing well beyond our industry as the EPA guidelines provide a roadmap for those wishing to mount legal challenges to any industrial projects on the grounds of their emissions.
“The EPA’s intervention is out-of-step with Australia’s emissions reduction targets and has added to the confusion on the national climate policy debate,” she told delegates.
Chief among the new guidelines by the independent EPA was that all new projects assessed, which emitted more than 100 000 t/y of carbon dioxide, should offset those emissions.
O’Neill said on Wednesday that emissions policies should be set at a national level, saying that the EPA was wrong to intervene at a state level.
“And they are wrong to volunteer up a policy that is effectively net zero, immediately, on projects in Western Australia - a wildly disproportionate share of the national task under either of the policy bookends.
“If this guideline is allowed to stand, it leaves Western Australia unfairly exposed and at a competitive disadvantage to other states. It is vital for investment in Western Australia that the state government strongly and unequivocally reject the EPA’s guidelines. But a rejection alone is not enough, while this guideline stands.
“We also need to understand how the government will make decisions, and we strongly advocate that it takes them in line with supporting a national approach to this important issue.”
O’Neill said that the government should be prepared to legislate, if need be, to clear up the confusion caused by the EPA.
“Legislation is certainly an option, or for them to articulate how they will assess projects in the meantime. They are working on a 12-month schedule, but that’s not going to work for us. We need to have certainty on our projects so we can go final investment decision in 2020,” she said.
While both the Browse and Scarborough projects fell within commonwealth waters, both the developments were reliant on the extension of the current North West Shelf liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant, by another 30 or 50 years.
The combined projects, known as the Burrup Hub, would see the development of some 20-trillion to 25-trillion cubic feet of gross dry gas resources from the Browse, Pluto and Scarborough gasfields, based on current reserves, processed through existing LNG facilities, such as Pluto LNG, and the North West Shelf project.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said on Wednesday that the state government was “absolutely determined” to support job-creating LNG projects like Browse and Scarborough, adding that the government would not endorse the guidelines laid out by the EPA.
“The EPA makes recommendations, as required under the Environmental Protection Act, but it is up to the government to make decisions. The state government is not bound by the guidelines.
“It’s the government’s role to take into account the economic and social impacts that proposals will have on our state, as well as any environmental implications,” the Minister said.
“We will not adopt a policy that threatens jobs, or puts Western Australia out of step with the rest of the nation on greenhouse matters. I look forward to consulting with representatives from the LNG industry to give them the certainty they need and identify a clear way forward,” he added.