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Environmental probe into AGL’s floating gas terminal bid

It is the largest and most complex environmental assessment Victoria has seen, with 6058 submissions, including a record number of public objections, and 49 pieces of expert evidence.

AGL’s plan to locate a terminal in the bay and connect it to a 57-kilometre pipeline from the Mornington Peninsula to Pakenham has faced delays and a bitter backlash from environmental groups and residents worried about the potential risks to the area’s ecosystems and tourism.

If the floating gas facility goes ahead it will be moored at the vacant berth 2 at Crib Point.

If the floating gas facility goes ahead it will be moored at the vacant berth 2 at Crib Point.

Opponents include federal MP Greg Hunt, several shire councils (Bass Coast, Mornington and Cardinia), recreational fishing peak bodies, tourism operators, local business owners, and environment and climate groups.

On Monday lawyers for AGL told the hearing the project would not have unacceptable environmental impacts, and would help address the predicted shortfall in the national gas supply.

“It is important to recognise natural gas will play an important role in the transition to [renewable] electricity sources in coming years,” they told the hearing.

In its submission AGL says Victorian gas prices will be, on average, $1.09 per gigajoule lower between 2020 to 2040 if the project goes ahead, compared to what they would be if the gas is supplied from other sources.

The hearing was told a floating import terminal would be moored at Crib Point Jetty. Gas would be transported to the terminal as liquefied natural gas, then “regassified” through a process that required pumping in sea water, or burning gas. Between 12 to 40 ships each year would moor alongside the terminal to resupply it.

The hearing will also consider the cultural impact of the proposal on the traditional owners, represented by the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

In his submission, Bunurong elder Robert Ogden said the cultural heritage assessments were “incomplete” and too focused on a narrow understanding of heritage.

He said “fragile” Bunurong shell middens around Western Port could show changes in diet, behaviour, and settlement over the last 12,000 years, and must be protected.

“We have a profound spiritual connection to Western Port, French Island, Phillip Island and lands that surround it,” he writes. “Bunurong lore and spirituality are intertwined within this country, our people and creation, and this is what forms the basis of our culture and sovereignty.”

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

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