The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) has said it intends to appeal a recommendation by WA’s Environmental Protection Authority that Woodside’s proposed extension of the North West Shelf gas processing facility be approved by the State Government.
The recommendation, released today, would allow Woodside to extend the life of the site – which processes gas from a number of offshore fields, primarily to be sold on the export market – by at least 50 years.
Gas – which is a fossil fuel – has been found to be one of the primary drivers behind WA’s ongoing emissions crisis, which has seen emissions levels rise by 20 per cent over 2005 levels, in contrast to reductions in other states.
The main component of gas, methane, is more than 25 times more potent than CO2 in trapping heat in the atmosphere and is a direct contributor to ongoing climate change which increases the frequency of floods, bushfires and droughts in Western Australia.
Woodside continues to court controversy among the scientific community and conservationists as it targets expansion of its fossil fuel operations while bodies like the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have advocated for no new oil, gas or coal developments.
Maggie Wood, Executive Director of CCWA, said: “This approval extends the life of the North West Shelf by 50 years. This is one of the oldest and least efficient gas processing plants in Australia and Woodside is dangerously close to being given licence to continue to produce highly polluting fossil fuels into the 2070s.
“According to the EPA documents released today, this extension will produce 4.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions. Without proper mitigation, that amount is utterly incompatible with any of Australia’s efforts to drive down emissions in time to avoid irreversible damage to our climate. It could well undermine any state or federal efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
“Extending the life of this giant fossil fuel facility is not going to reverse the trend that has made WA the worst performing state, on climate action, in the country. We not only can do better; we must do better.
“We're also concerned that the EPA has suggested it should not be in its remit to consider Scope 3 emissions in its considerations. If it is not the EPA's responsibility to consider the pollution generated when the gas is burned, then whose is it?”
The North West Shelf site sits on the Burrup Peninsula, traditionally known as Murujuga by the Indigenous communities which have inhabited the area for tens of thousands of years.
Murujuga is also home to at least one million world heritage shortlisted ancient rock carvings – known as petroglyphs – which have been found to be directly threatened by emissions from heavy industry, including the production of gas. These petroglyphs are among some of the oldest depictions of human figures and include images of long extinct animals and the first encounters of Aboriginal people with western settlers.
As part of its recommendation, the EPA has suggested conditions on the North West Shelf to protect the petroglyphs.
“This is the second time that the EPA has recognised that emissions on the Burrup are having an impact on the globally significant, world heritage shortlisted Murujuga rock art.
“It is imperative that Woodside is made to take full responsibility for any destruction to the world’s oldest, largest art gallery. Once Murujuga is gone, it is gone and no amount of profit that Woodside makes, selling fossil fuels overseas, is going to bring it back.”
Concerns have also been raised about how Woodside intends follow up on its plans to make the North West Shelf facility ‘net-zero’ emissions compliant by 2050 with the EPA recommending regular monitoring of the company’s progress towards that goal.
Maggie Wood said that greater clarity was needed in this area to ensure the measures used to get the site to net-zero – namely offsets – would be effective.
“The only environmentally responsible way to get the North West Shelf emissions to net-zero, is by reducing production, which would defeat the purpose of even considering extending the life of the site.
"If Woodside is not willing to reduce production then they will be relying on offsets.
“Offsetting projects simply doesn't deliver what we need – a large scale reduction in the carbon emissions entering the atmosphere.
“Offsets are often used a smokescreen by companies like Woodside to allow continued expansion of fossil fuel production. Equally, companies like Woodside often favour cheap, low-quality offsets that are difficult to enforce properly.”
“The WA Government has recently set a solid foundation to tackle our state’s emissions crisis with its public sector interim emissions reduction targets. That will all be for naught if fossil fuel companies like Woodside are allowed to continue expanding and consolidating a highly polluting and outdated business model.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing more than 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]