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Interview with Simon Beaumont, Radio 6PR, Perth
26 August 2009
BEAUMONT: It's a project that they say will be worth around about $50 billion, the Gorgon LNG project, the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has just given the green light to the project, he joins me on the program now. Peter, g'day, how are you?
GARRETT: Hi, Simon.
BEAUMONT: Nice to talk to you. What assurances can you give West Australians, Australians, that the Gorgon project will be environmentally safe?
GARRETT: I've made sure that the conditions that I've put on the expansion proposal that came to me, Simon, require absolute high levels of protection for the environment, particularly the flat back turtles, but also the Commonwealth marine environment, and that means that Chevron will have to prepare plans relating to any potential impact before construction begins, so its management plans, monitoring plans and the like, have also sought that the quarantine management system, which was part of the original proposal, also applied to the expansion.
And in doing that, we've also required that that material be made publicly available so that there's good transparency in terms of decision-making, and I'm confident, and the advice that I've got from my department is confident, that there won't be significant impacts on the matters that I have to consider, ie the matters of national environment significance.
BEAUMONT: Did the incidents of the last week, Minister, where we've seen and oil and gas leaks off the West Australian coast, albeit a couple of hundred ks off the West Australian coast, did that give you reason to take pause on this?
GARRETT: Look, I did insist that we had a requirement for an oil spill contingency plan in the condition in relation to Commonwealth waters, and that's in addition to the requirements under the various petroleum submerged lands legislation that covers the incident on the north-west.
So whilst this is a very different kind of proposal, it's a liquid natural gas proposal, and if there were to be any spills, they'd more likely come, if they were to happen, from say vessels or equipment or the like. I have taken the additional step of ensuring that there's a contingency plan for the marine waters, so I think that that does adequately and accurately satisfy that particular matter.
BEAUMONT: Sure. Minister, a big part of this project, if it does go ahead, and I understand there may be some shared liability between the Commonwealth and the State, in terms of any future problems, are you convinced, are you satisfied, that the storing of the carbon dioxide, the geosequestration projects, will meet standards there? Are you worried about how much of this carbon will be stored underground as part of this project, and what compliance measures have you put in place there?
GARRETT: Well, I do have a condition that requires monitoring in the event, the unlikely event, that there would be leakage, and the impact that that might have on the listed species which are in the ground waters on Barrow, but my jurisdiction there is limited, there's no CCS requirements under the EPBC legislation, that's the national environment legislation.
But I do know that the State and Commonwealth requirements otherwise are strict, that there'll be a monitoring and compliance regime which makes sure that any issues around the CCS storage, particularly potential leakages, is considered both in a robust, but also in a quick fashion, and I'm satisfied, from the point of view of my requirements under this legislation, that I've taken that into account.
BEAUMONT: Okay, so who does have stewardship of that particular area, minister?
GARRETT: That's a matter for the Commonwealth and the State departments in relation to the Minister for Energy, in our case that's Minister Ferguson. We've as you know, got an agreement about liability between the Commonwealth and West Australia, the actual compliance, monitoring and regulation will be dealt with by both State and Commonwealth Governments through their energy resources.
BEAUMONT: Okay, but it wasn't a big part of your approval process here?
GARRETT: No, it's not a big part of this approval process, although I did take that into account in relation to the specific marine, I beg your pardon, subterranian species that can be located in the ground water.
BEAUMONT: All right, minister, thanks for your time today, I know you're busy. Thank you.
GARRETT: Thanks, mate.
BEAUMONT: Good on you. Peter Garrett, the Environment Minister.