Gorgon s Barrow expansion approved

UPDATE 8.55am: A proposal by Chevron to expand its operations on Barrow Island - which the State Opposition claimed was linked to a property deal signed between the State Government and the resources giant - has been endorsed by WA's environmental watchdog.

The Environmental Protection Authority said yesterday it was satisfied that increasing Chevron's footprint on the island from 300ha to 332ha was ecologically acceptable provided it met certain conditions.

Barrow Island, off the Pilbara coast, is being used as the base for the $US54 billion Gorgon gas project, the lead partner of which is US-based energy giant Chevron.

Chief among the new conditions proposed by the EPA is extending a signature program to take threatened animal species from the island and reintroduce them to the mainland.

The EPA said such a move was appropriate to offset the "residual impacts of clearing 32ha of a Class-A Nature Reserve including habitat for specially protected fauna".

"The threatened species translocation and reintroduction program will be extended from 12 years to 14 years," EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.

"This offset represents a 10 per cent increase in the contribution, which is equal to the approximately 10 per cent increase in the project footprint from 300ha to 332ha."

The green light from the EPA comes less than two months after the issue ignited a fierce debate in Parliament when the Opposition tried to link it to a land deal between the State and Chevron.

At the time, Labor accused Premier Colin Barnett of discussing the matter while encouraging Chevron to buy land as part of the Elizabeth Quay development.

Though Chevron eventually bought a commercial lot and paid a record price for the land, Mr Barnett reacted furiously to the claim, labelling Labor MPs "absolute grubs" and insisting the issues were "not interrelated".

Shadow State development minister Bill Johnston said the EPA "appeared to endorse" Labor's call for an increase in offsets to accompany a bigger industrial footprint on Barrow Island.

The EPA's report will be open to public appeals for two weeks.

The West Australian

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