Strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Under national environment law—the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)—the Australian Government environment minister may agree to undertake a strategic assessment on the impacts of actions under a policy, plan or program. The legislation also requires that a terms of reference be developed to guide such a strategic assessment.
On 6 February 2008, the Australian Government environment minister signed an agreement with the Western Australian Government to undertake a strategic assessment of the impacts of actions under a plan for the Browse Basin common-user liquefied natural gas (LNG) precinct and associated activities.
The use of a single, common-user LNG precinct is proposed to prevent piecemeal development by individual companies and the cumulative impact that widespread industrialisation of the Kimberley coastline would have. At the same time it has the potential to create economic synergies for industry groups interested in processing gas resources from the Browse Basin.
The draft terms of reference for the strategic assessment report were released for public comment between 23 February and 25 March 2008. Following the public comment period, the terms of reference were finalised.
A copy of the strategic assessment agreement with the final terms of reference and commonly asked questions and answers about the Browse Basin liquefied natural gas precinct strategic assessment are available to download below:
In 2008, a site selection process was undertaken by the Western Australian Government to identify a potential development site in the Kimberley for the precinct. The process considered more than 40 sites and involved consultation with Indigenous communities, environmental scientists, marine experts, the public, environment groups and industry.
The site selection process was guided by agreed criteria that were released for public comment along with the strategic assessment's terms of reference. See the strategic assessment agreement for a copy of the site selection criteria.
The final four short listed sites were released for public comment in 2008. Following this, James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula (see Fig.1) was selected by the Western Australian Government as their preferred site to undergo a full assessment because it satisfied several criteria, including avoiding the most environmentally and culturally significant areas of the Kimberley's coastline. James Price Point was supported by Indigenous interests for further investigation.
Detailed reports on the site selection process are available on the Western Australian Department of State Development's website at: www.dsd.wa.gov.au/7909.aspx
Figure 1: James Price Point: proposed LNG precinct location in the West Kimberley, Western Australia
The strategic assessment also requires an analysis of feasible alternative locations for the precinct outside the Kimberley. The Australian Government commissioned an independent preliminary report into alternative sites along the Pilbara coast and the Northern Territory coast, as well as offshore structures. The report was provided to the Western Australian Government:
- Comparative analysis of the feasibility of alternative locations for the development of a liquefied natural gas precinct (PDF - 10,870 KB)
James Price Point
Throughout 2009 and continuing into early 2010, the Western Australian Government has been coordinating studies at James Price Point and its surrounds to inform its preparation of environmental, heritage and social impact assessments.
Findings will be presented in the strategic assessment report and plan for the LNG precinct and will address, among other things, potential impacts on nationally protected matters.
For further information and to obtain key documents and reports go to the Western Australian Department of State Development's website.
Following consideration by the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority, the WA environment minister formally approved the Browse Basin LNG precinct on 19 November 2012.
The department has received the final Browse Basin LNG precinct strategic assessment documentation from Western Australian Department of State Development and is verifying that the requirements of the strategic assessment have been met. If so the minister will then be able to consider the proposal under national environmental law. There are no statutory timeframes for decisions on strategic assessments.
National Heritage List assessment
The environment minister has added the west Kimberley to the National Heritage List, recognising the outstanding heritage values within more than 19 million hectares of the west Kimberley, including Aboriginal, historic, aesthetic and natural heritage values.
This includes the dinosaur footprints in the intertidal zone of a 200 km stretch of Broome Sandstone along the west coast of the Dampier Coast, including at James Price Point.
The strategic assessment process requires potential environmental and heritage impacts to be fully assessed, and this includes the listed dinosaur footprints.
Further information on National Heritage listing: www.environment.gov.au/heritage/about/national