MELBOURNE, June 6 -- The Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia has recommended for the second time against Chevron Corp. group's Gorgon-Jansz LNG Project on Barrow Island off Western Australian.
The EPA first rejected the proposal in July 2003. This was overridden 2 months later by the Western Australian Cabinet, which said restricted access to the island could be set aside for the project subject to the Chevron group's demonstrating that environmental issues could be managed.
After studying a 3,000-page environmental impact statement subsequently tendered by Chevron, the EPA has reiterated its concerns on four main counts:
-- Potential interference with the rare, threatened Flatback turtle.
-- Potential impact to the marine ecosystem from dredging.
-- Potential for introduction of nonindigenous species on Barrow Island, a nature reserve.
-- The possibility of loss of subterranean and short-range endemic invertebrate fauna species.
On the first count, EPA Chairman Wally Cox said two of the most important nesting beaches of the Flatback turtle are adjacent to the proposed LNG plant site and the materials off-loading facility.
He said that because the life cycle, behavior, and feeding habits of the turtle were little known it is impossible to identify measures that would ensure survival of the species in this region.
Cox said Chevron and its joint venturers had not demonstrated that risks could be reduced to satisfactory levels on each of the other three points.
Chevron has said it is confident it can appeal the EPA's recommendations. It says it has operated safely at Barrow Island oil field for 40 years and suggests that without its presence the island's plant and animal life would have been degraded long ago.
The Western Australian government has the final decision on the project and can veto the EPA recommendations.
The two-train, 10 million-tonne/year LNG project, expected to cost in excess of $11 billion (Aus.), has earmarked customers in Japan, North America, and India. A final investment decision was to have been made early next year, subject to government approvals. On-stream date for LNG is nominally 2010, although there are now indications this could slip to 2011-12 (OGJ, May 15, 2006, Newsletter).