“One of the significant issues is the proposal to discharge [waste] water into Western Port Bay, which is designated as a wetland of international importance under Ramsar”, a lawyer for the Environment Protection Authority told the inquiry.
About 470 million litres of seawater would pass through the ship’s heat exchange pipes each day, and be pumped back into the bay, according to Environment Victoria’s submission to the inquiry.
The Victorian National Parks Association said the proposal did not significantly address the effect on marine biodiversity, including as a result of potential ship collisions, oil spills and gas explosions.
Nor did it fully address what effect chlorine discharges and other toxicants would have on marine life, the association’s submission said.
“We have concern for how the suite of chemicals can cause considerable toxic effects and impacts over considerable distances on the ecosystems of Western Port Bay.”
This is the largest and most complex environmental assessment carried out in Victoria, with 6058 submissions and a record number of public objections.
Western Port is one of the “jewels in Victoria’s crown” and supports a diversity of flora and fauna,including threatened species and breeding grounds for fish, a lawyer for the Mornington Peninsula and Bass Coast councils told the hearing.
AGL’s key rationale for the proposal is that it would tackle a predicted shortfall in gas supply to Victoria from 2024. It says this supply is needed for energy security.
But the councils say the evidence falls “well short” of establishing that a shortfall in Victorian gas supply will occur in the absence of the floating terminal.
“Any shortfall in 2024 arises not from an overall shortage of gas … but rather from infrastructure constraints within the Victorian gas transport network,” the councils’ lawyer told the inquiry.
Opponents include federal MP Greg Hunt (whose electorate includes the Western Port area), Bass Coast, Mornington and Cardinia councils, recreational fishing peak bodies, tourism operators, local business owners and environment and climate groups.
Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.