Monday, June 13th, 2011

James Price Point: An open letter to environment minister Tony Burke

Tessa Purcell

Tessa Purcell

Tessa Purcell has written an open letter to federal environment minister Tony Burke.

“The industrialisation of the Kimberley will cause environmental damage to the region and it will be the future generations and I, who will have to face the consequences,” she writes.

Ms Purcell describes herself as a local Broome girl who is studying environmental management and sustainable development at Murdoch University.

KimberleyPage welcomes well-written opinion pieces on any topic of interest to Kimberley readers.

You can read Ms Purcell’s letter here:

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment,

Water, Population and Communities;

PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Tony Burke

Protect the Kimberley Region and Stop the Gas Hub at James Prices Point on the Kimberley Coast of WA.

The industrialisation of the Kimberley will cause environmental damage to the region and it will be the future generations and I, who will have to face the consequences.  The Kimberley coast is not the right place for this polluting LNG gas hub – we cannot afford to jeopardise one of the world’s great natural and Indigenous cultural regions.

Thousands of people all over Australia and the world are also very strongly committed to working to ensure that the industrialisation of the Kimberley coast is stopped. Without the development of necessary protection strategies for the region, current and future threats will continue to grow and lead to irreversible environmental impacts (WWF et al. 2009, 6).  I want to know what you and our Australian government’s responses are to these concerns and your intentions on how you are going to protect the Kimberley.

I have enclosed a report which summarises the potentially devastating impacts and recommendations to avoid the proposed LNG processing plant at James Price Point. There is a real opportunity and responsibility to prevent repeating environmental mistakes made elsewhere in the world – we must make sure we get it right and make the right decision.

SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED GAS HUB AND ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY

Figure 1: Major liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in North West WA - existing and proposed (Wilderness Society, 2010)

Figure 1: Major liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in North West WA - existing and proposed (Wilderness Society, 2010)

The Kimberley is recognised as among the world’s most remote and ecologically diverse regions (DEC 2009, 4). Its rich tropical marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the great beauty of unique landscapes are home to an astonishing variety of wildlife including Humpback whales, five species of turtles and coral reef networks that are of global significance.  As well as being one of Australia’s fifteen National Biodiversity Hotspots’ (DEC 2009, 5), recent research has placed the Kimberley alongside Antarctica as one of the worlds least disturbed marine environments (Wilderness Society 2009). It is attracting increasing numbers of international and domestic tourists each year and is clearly comparable to the Great Barrier Reef in value and conservation significance (Curtin University 2010, 3).

The urgent reality is that the WA Government is pressing ahead with plans for a huge industrial hub to process Browse Basin gas on the Kimberley coast of James Prices Point. The proposed major LNG industrial complex on the Kimberley coast would cause a wide range of environmental impacts and threats (Ellison 2009, 1-2). It will use all our precious groundwater, pollute the cleanest of air and oceans and compromise the sustainable economic future of the Kimberley (e.g. tourism, pearling etc.) (Wilderness Society 2010). It will be viewed as an utter environmental catastrophe and will cause a domino effect for other damaging industries such as large scale strip mining for bauxite and coal.

THE PROBLEM

The proposed LNG gas hub is the problem, being a large industrial development in the wrong location. This is what has been proposed and will cause major environmental impacts (Environs Inc 2009b):

  • 4 gas pipelines coming ashore at James Price Point
  • 4 export pipelines (2 with monoethylene glycol—anti-freeze— going to Scott Reef, 2 with carbon dioxide if Woodside decides it wants to ‘geo-sequester’ it)
  • 8 huge LNG tanks, 4 LPG storage tanks, 4 oil tanks
  • Construction camp for 3,500 – 6,000 workers
  • 1,000 permanent personnel
  • 1000 – 1,500 LNG tanker movements year
  • 24 Hour operation
  • Roads to allow for heavy road trains in all weather scenarios

ENVIRONMENTAL, CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS

The potential impacts of the LNG development are identified below by extensive evidence in published documents, statements by government departments and non profit organisations these include:

1. Ecological

a) Land Clearing – 2400 hectares of woodlands at James Prices point (Wilderness Society 2010)

Impacts: Rare Monsoon Vine Thicket plants and coastal shore will be affected.

b) Ongoing Dredging & Blasting – a channel to allow access for the LNG tankers & boats.

Impacts: Release large loads of sediment into marine environment causes light to be cut off and organisms e.g. corals cannot photosynthesis. Fish are impacted by clogging of their gills and filter feeding organisms e.g. oysters feeding mechanisms can be clogged.

c) Whale Breeding ground and Sanctuaryconstruction of a gas hub will be detrimental to the coast-hugging whales, where they stay four to 12 months with their calves (Curtin 2010, 24)

Impacts: Will interfere with whales feeding, movement and breeding and will harm the tourist industry (Bennett 2010b).

d) Breakwater – the building of a huge (5-7km) breakwater and construction of large jetty.

Impacts: altering the oceanography of the region; and increased boat traffic with the associated risk of oil spills, boat strike and marine pests.

2. Health and Pollution

a) Greenhouse Gas Emissions – offset of massive emissions and it is estimated the initial project will produce 20 million tonnes of emissions every year – equivalent to 3 million cars (20% of WA’s total) (Manning 2010).

Impacts: WA’s green house reduction targets will be almost impossible and global consequences.

b) Toxic Air Pollution– The development would release toxic gases including nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and ammonia from flare tower and other operations (Woodward 1998, 4-4).

Impacts: Known to have negative impacts on wildlife and human health.

Risk of Environmental Disasters: Accidents do happen and the Kimberley coast should not be put at unnecessary risk, as we have seen with the Montara and Gulf of Mexico oil spill (Manning 2010).

Impacts: Can have devastating and irreversible effects on ecosystems.

3. Economic and Cultural

a) Damage to Tourism Industry- The development would devalue and undermine the image of the Kimberley of a nature base and remote tourism destination that has taken years to build (Bennett 2010a).

Impacts: Would flow through tourism, business operators, regional employment, business viability and local residents (Curtin 2010, 6).

b) Indigenous Cultural Impacts- The development threatens to directly damage scared sites, special song lines, heritage trail and infrastructure and workers will impact surrounding environments and local communities.

Impacts: Aboriginal links with the land, loss of tribes (30 tribes currently remain in the Kimberley region), Native title (Save the Kimberley 2009).

RECOMMENDATIONS TO PROTECT THE KIMBERLEY

You can see that the solutions do exist with the aim to protect the Kimberley from industrialisation. The Submission to the Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy published in 2009 by Non government organisations including WWF and Environs Kimberley contains several omissions that will be effective and other viable options. I make the following recommendations that your government should put into effect to address these oversights.

Recommendation 1:  Leave the gas in the ground – with dangerous climate change on the world agenda it would be best to develop and invest in renewable forms of energy and fossil fuel extraction is not necessary. Tidal and solar energy is suited for the northern region of Western Australia and it would also create thousands of jobs (Environs 2009a).

Recommendation 2: Develop and implement conservation and protection plan for the Kimberley through the establishment of multiple use of marine and national parks, including World Heritage assessment, in accordance with the wishes of Traditional Owners under a process of prior and informed consent (WWF et al. 2010, 8).

Recommendation 3: Process the gas in the Pilbara, it already has the industrial facilities; industrial land, power supply and workers are already in place. It will suit this kind of development and it would be cheaper than building a new gas hub (Wilderness Society 2010). Inpex is one example who is piping gas to Darwin through an 850km pipeline (Inpex 2008).

Recommendation 4: Process the gas using LNG floating platform Technology at sea near the source of gas – this would not require land clearing or a port. Woodside has said it is looking at floating LNG as an option for its massive Sunrise project near East Timor and Darwin (Wilson 2007). The state government does not like this option as it reduces revenues although protection of the environment is more important (Environs Kimberley 2009a).

References

Bennett, Michael. 2010a. Oil, gas threat to NW tourism. The Western Australian (August 31): 9.

Bennett, Michael. 2010b. Whale nursery to clash with gas hub: report. The West, 3 September. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/7879501/whale-nursery-to-clash-with-gas-hub-report/ (accessed September 15, 2010).

Curtin Sustainable Tourism Centre. 2010. Kimberley Whale Coast Tourism: Opportunities and Threats. Report for the Wilderness Society (WA), July 2010.

Ellison, Chris. 2009. Foundations for a Kimberley Strategy. Volume 1: 1-6. Imos. http://imos.org.au/fileadmin/user_upload/shared/IMOS%20General/documents/external_reports/2009224_kimberleysciencerpt_finalweb_2_.pdf (accessed September 9, 2010).

Environs Kimberley. 2009a. Alternatives. Gas Bag. Bulletin 1, September.

Environs Kimberley. 2009b. Oil and Gas at James Prices Point – Light Industry? Gas Bag. Bulletin 3, October.

INPEX. 2020. Offshore Facilities. http://www.inpex.com.au/projects/development-and-exploration/ichthys-project/project-overview.aspx (accessed September 15, 2010).

Manning, Paddy. 2010. Pressure Building on Kimberley Coast. The Age, 4 September: 21 . http://www.theage.com.au/business/pressure-building-on-kimberley-coast-20100903-14ujw.html (accessed September 6, 2010).

Save the Kimberley. 2009. A culture and traditions under threat. http://www.savethekimberley.com/wp/whats-the-fuss/country-culture/ (accessed September 12, 2010).

Western Australia. Department of Environment and Conservation. 2009. Protecting the Kimberley: A synthesis of Scientific Knowledge to Support Conservation Management in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Volume 1. Perth: DEC

Wilderness Society. 2010. Kimberley LNG gas plant and James Price Point FAQ. http://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/kimberley/kimberley-lng-gas-plant-and-james-price-pointfaq-your-questions-answered (accessed September 12, 2010).

Wilson, Nigel. 2007. Woodside praises floating LNG platform. The Australian, 16 November. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/woodside-praises-floating-lng-platform/story-e6frg9df-1111114888526 (accessed September 16, 2010).

Woodward, Clyde. 1998. Burrup Peninsula World Scale Ammonia/Urea Plant: Consultative Environmental Review. Prepared for Plenty River Corporation Limited.

World Wildlife Fund, The PEW Environmental Group, The Wilderness Society, Environs Kimberley Inc, Australian Conservation Foundation and Conservation Council of Western Australia Inc. 2009. Introduction and Summary. Environmental NGOs Response to the WA Government’s Kimberley Science Synthesis / Science and Conservation Strategy (June): 2 – 10. The Wilderness Society. http://www.wilderness.org.au/files/kimberley-june-09.pdf (accessed September 10, 2010).

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