Vic government rejects Crib Point gas plan

·3-min read

The Victorian government has rejected a proposal from energy giant AGL to build a gas import terminal at Crib Point in Western Port.

The government said marine discharges from the gas hub would have had "unacceptable effects" on the local environment, including a nearby Ramsar-listed wetland of international significance.

The 300m-long floating terminal was planned for a site 10km north of tourist hotspot Phillip Island, and would have been 12km from the nearest marine park.

The project also involved building a 60km gas pipeline from Crib Point to Pakenham.

The decision was based on the environmental effects statement from AGL and energy infrastructure company APA Group, a report on the EES by an independent committee, and about 6000 public submissions.

"This has been an exhaustive, open and transparent process and this is the right outcome for the local community, the environment and Victoria as a whole," Planning Minister Richard Wynne said in a statement.

"It's very clear to me that this project would cause unacceptable impacts on the Western Port environment and the Ramsar wetlands. It's important that these areas are protected."

AGL had been planning the project since 2018, and had argued the terminal was necessary to keep the price of gas low and address a potential shortage in the state.

The company made a statement to the ASX on Tuesday, saying it estimated about $130 million had been spent or committed to the Crib Point project so far.

Chief executive Brett Redman told an AGL investor event on Tuesday the company would consider the decision.

"It's quite a complex decision. We were given a copy late last night, the team is still pulling it apart to understand it," he said.

The controversial Crib Point plan sparked a series of public protests, including earlier this month when people wore wetsuits to protest outside state parliament.

Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell welcomed the decision, saying the gas terminal had been a terrible idea from the start.

"It was ridiculous the Victorian Labor government ever thought it was a good idea to import fracked gas into Victoria, through a sensitive Ramsar wetland," she said.

Jane Carnegie from the Save Westernport group said science and good sense had won out, and the Crib Point plan should never have made it off the drawing board.

"Western Port Bay was never the place for such a monstrous, environmentally damaging project," she said.

Environment Victoria chief executive Jono La Nauze said the gas imported through the terminal could have created more than eight million tonnes of carbon pollution.

"Gas is a polluting fossil fuel and a major cause of the climate crisis," he said.

But Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said Victoria was at risk of gas supply shortages.

"The Morrison government has long called for the Victorian government to remove bans on gas developments that deny Australians access to local, affordable gas and investment in regional communities," he said.

The Victorian opposition welcomed the decision as a "win" for the local community, but wants the state government to continue to work with federal counterparts to shore up energy security.

"It is absolutely critical if we're going to have a recovery from COVID that we have a good, cheap supply of energy," Victorian Liberal MP Georgie Crozier told reporters.