The State’s peak environment organisation has strongly criticised the WA Environmental Protection Authority for buckling to industry and Government pressure by omitting climate change and carbon pollution from its revised policy guideline for environmental impact assessment.
The review of EPA policies and guidelines was triggered by the successful court challenge to the environmental approval for the Roe 8 highway.
The agency’s new Statement of Environmental Factors, Principles and Objectives sets out the key issues that the EPA expects to be addressed in the assessment of projects, however there is no mention at all of climate change or carbon pollution in that document.
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said: “Most scientists and members of the public consider climate change and carbon pollution to be top of the list of environmental concerns. Even the last WA State of the Environment Report compiled by the EPA itself in 2007 ranked climate change as one of two ‘fundamental pressures’ on the environment.
“It is astonishing that according to the new official EPA policy, climate change and carbon pollution no longer make the list of the most significant environmental issues to be dealt with by the Authority.
“WA already has one of the highest levels of carbon pollution per capita in the world, and our communities and environment are among the most vulnerable to climate change - yet the State’s environmental watchdog seems to think it is not a serious issue.
“Every other environmental factor identified in the EPA policy is fundamentally compromised by climate change, yet this fundamental pressure is given no mention in the EPA’s most important guidance document.
“Carbon pollution in WA has been allowed to increase rapidly in recent years as the EPA has recommended approval for major new polluting projects with little if any requirements to reduce this pollution.”
Recently the EPA issued a report recommending the approval of a gas processing facility that could see an increase to WA’s annual pollution by over 50% by adding an additional 41 million tonnes of pollution per year.
“For many years we have been extremely concerned by the failure of the EPA to take climate change seriously however we never thought we would see the day when they totally remove it from their list of priority issues for assessment.
“This issue is a key test of the independence and credibility of the EPA and on this test they have failed badly.
“The policy approach that the EPA have adopted towards climate change is like treating a broken leg with a band-aid. It is environmentally reckless, goes against the advice of scientists globally, and is not credible to the WA community.
“Clearly the EPA have buckled to pressure from the gas and fossil fuel industry, who are the direct financial beneficiaries of this policy.
“The gas industry know that when the EPA go weak on climate change, they will save tens of millions of dollars in avoided costs to cut their pollution.
“The Barnett Government may have a policy to do nothing on climate change, but we expect much better of the independent environmental agency.
“On such a critical environmental issue like climate change it is extremely disappointing to see the EPA adopting an official policy that is so clearly shaped by the Government’s political agenda and pressure from polluting industry.
“The EPA’s policy simply acts to facilitate projects which massively add to the problem for no other reason than to save money for the fossil fuel industry. We expect much better from the State’s Environmental Protection Agency.”