Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Environmental approval for proposed Wheatstone project
22 September 2011
A liquefied natural gas project proposed by Chevron in Western Australia’s Pilbara region has received approval under national environmental law.
Environment Minister Tony Burke today announced that following a rigorous assessment he had approved Chevron’s proposed Wheatstone liquefied natural gas project under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, with strict conditions.
Chevron will be required to adhere to 70 conditions, including submitting for federal approval a range of plans and programs detailing how it would protect matters of national environmental significance protected under the EPBC Act and implement a biodiversity offset strategy.
"My decision is based on a thorough and rigorous assessment of the Wheatstone proposal taking into account the advice of my department and independent scientific advice," Mr Burke said.
"While I have considered the social and economic implications of this project, my focus has been on protecting environmental matters of national significance through strict conditions to manage any potential environmental impacts.
"The strict conditions I've imposed on the proposed project will help to protect threatened and migratory species such as dugongs, marine turtles, sawfish, dolphins and whales and the marine environment.
"Chevron will be required to submit for my approval a range of plans and programs detailing how the project impacts on protected matters will be minimised.
"For example, dredging operations will be optimised to protect dugong, marine turtles and their habitat, and dredging can only take place outside the coral-spawning period.
"Any seismic activity that takes place will do so in accordance with best-practice seismic guidelines that include exclusion zones, avoidance measures and ‘soft start’ procedures.
"Chevron must develop a program to manage discharge from both onshore and offshore infrastructure and accommodation facilities and throughout the production process to ensure matters of national environmental significance are protected.
"A comprehensive biodiversity offset strategy will further enhance protection for marine species. It will include establishing a regional Indigenous sea ranger program for the life of the project to minimise any impacts to marine species and their coastal habitats."
The offsets will also include funding from Chevron for research into seagrass ecology and removal of barriers to the movement of sawfish.
Chevron has agreed that Wheatstone project staff will be trained and adhere to a comprehensive Code of Conduct, around the importance of the environment around them, recognising that there will be a significant increase in number of people in the region as a result of the project.
"Chevron will be required to educate its workforce on the significance of environmental values of the area and responsibilities towards protecting those values including a Code of Conduct to manage fishing and recreational activities by employees," Mr Burke said.
The proposed Wheatstone project is south-west of Onslow in the Pilbara and would be among Australia’s largest resource projects.
For more information about the Wheatstone project proposal environmental approval decision go to http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/epbc/epbc_ap.pl?name=current_referral_detail&proposal_id=4469.