No precedent for Browse site selection
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PERTH, Nov 19 AAP
November 19 2012, 8:32PM
West Australian Environment Minister Bill Marmion has admitted he can't think of a project, other than Woodside's Browse gas hub, that involved the federal and state governments hand picking the site.
Mr Marmion made the admission on Monday after approving the $30 billion project planned for James Price Point north of Broome, so all that is needed now is the green light from his federal counterpart Tony Burke and a decision by the Woodside-led joint venture to proceed.
Asked during a press conference if he could think of any other project approval process that began with the federal and state governments picking a site - as was the case with Browse in 2009 - Mr Marmion indicated there were no other examples.
"I'm trying to think of one," he said.
Mr Marmion did not directly respond when asked if his hands were tied before he even began assessing the project, instead saying that government involvement in the site selection process was aimed at preventing ad hoc development along the Kimberley coast and creating a hub that could process gas from multiple projects.
"It's showing that the state government - not me - but the minister involved (State Development Minister and Premier Colin Barnett) is wanting to create an environment for development to occur and it also does create an environment where you don't get individual LNG producers wanting to set up all along the coast," Mr Marmion said.
"I wasn't involved in the site selection but personally, knowing the area, they've probably picked a good spot."
The Wilderness Society labelled the state's environmental assessment process a sham, pointing out that an Environmental Protection Authority report advising Mr Marmion to back the project was left to just one man, chairman Paul Vogel, after his four fellow board members abstained due to conflicts of interest.
Environs Kimberley said Mr Marmion's approval was a step towards "environmental disaster" and urged Mr Burke to reject the proposal.
Its director Martin Pritchard said the WA government had fixed its sights on James Price Point "based on politics rather than on science".
"And they have failed to properly consider social and economic impacts on Broome and the Kimberley," Mr Pritchard said.
"This proposal would be the biggest environmental disaster the Kimberley has ever seen."
Those opposed to the location, including the Australian Greens, have called repeatedly for Browse Basin gas to be piped south to Woodside's existing North West Shelf facilities in the Pilbara region.
Others, including JP Morgan analysts, favour a floating liquefaction vessel, like Royal Dutch Shell plans for its Prelude LNG project in the state's far north, but Mr Barnett says that model would not provide enough local jobs.
Mr Marmion declined to comment on alternative scenarios, saying that was not his remit as environment minister.
By Rebecca Le May