James Price Point gas dream is dead

The Western Australian Supreme Court declared today the James Price Point  (JPP) gas plant is illegal after it found that the WA Environment Minister and the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) have acted illegally in the assessment and approval of the massive project.

The court’s announcement puts the final nail in the coffin ending the elusive Dubai dream. In April, Woodside Petroleum’s announced it is dumping its $45 billion LNG investment in JPP after it found the project to be economically unviable.

Wilderness Society WA Campaign Manager Peter Robertson said JPP is now dead and buried and that WA Premier Colin Barnett must face the facts, drop this unhealthy obsession, and quit the compulsory acquisition process.

Victory for Goolarabooloo Traditional Owner Richard Hunter (Photo: Damian Kelly)

Victory for Goolarabooloo Traditional Owner Richard Hunter (Photo: Damian Kelly)

The Wilderness took the action with Goolarabooloo Traditional Owner Richard Hunter. The people of Broome and the Traditional Custodians supported the action and rallied in opposition to the WA Government and some of the world’s biggest resource companies.

Hunter said the EPA lied to the community, but truth and justice prevail. “Today’s court ruling shows that we will do what it takes to protect the Song Cycle, this country, for future generations. Our people are strong – we are still fighting for our culture and country, we won’t be bullied into a corner by the government,” he said.

Robertson said JPP or Walmadan should remain with its Traditional Custodians to be managed for its extraordinary landscape, wildlife, and culture.

The failure of the gas project shows two things: It highlights the environmental and cultural significance of Walmadan while it underscores the importance of independent environmental assessment.

Traditional Owners Neil McKenzie, Albert Wiggan and Joseph Roe stand up against Woodside’s proposed gas hub at James Price Point. (Photo:Julia Rau)

The case also demonstrates that the States cannot be trusted to protect their own natural heritage and that the Federal Government needs to maintain an environmental oversight, the Wilderness said adding that this ruling sets a bold precedent and is a stark reminder of why final environmental approval powers should not be left in the hands of the States.

Further, the Society is wary that business and investor confidence will be severely eroded around the country as environmental approvals are overturned by the courts or spend years tangled up in legal action as evidenced by the JPP ruling.

National Director Lyndon Schneiders notes that Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott  made his party’s position clear on approval powers being handed to the conflicted and under-resourced States.  He said the States cannot be trusted to look after environmental matters of national significance.

Wilderness Society’s Perth crew at Woodside’s AGM in April to celebrate the dumping of Kimberley gas hub. (Photo: Wilderness Society)

Wilderness Society’s Perth crew at Woodside’s AGM in April to celebrate the dumping of Kimberley gas hub. (Photo: Wilderness Society)

Without Federal powers to override the irresponsible decisions of the States, the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin River, the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island would all have been destroyed.

Recently, the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) also released the ‘One Stop Chop’ , a report containing an assessment how State governments failed to enforce effective environmental protection laws without an overriding Federal laws.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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Kimberley’s gas hub collapsed

Western Australia’s fantasy of making Kimberley the next Dubai and the world’s largest gas hub suddenly came crumbling down following Woodside Petroleum’s announcement today it is dumping its $45 billion LNG investment in James Point Price.

Broom Community No Gas Campaign flashes a banner to celebrate win outside Woodside’s Office. (Photo: BCNG)

Woodside CEO Peter Coleman admitted the gas project is economically unviable saying the company has been under cost pressure. He said James Point Price does not meet the company’s commercial requirements for a positive investment decision.  A major review of the proposed LNG processing plant near Broome was found it would not deliver the returns the company needed.

While this development is a cause for elation among traditional land owners and local communities who have fought day in and day out to block the project, the WA state government is now pointing fingers amid  the “dismal failure” of the project.

Theresa Roe embraces her granddaughter after Woodside’s announcement. (Photo: BCNG)

WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan blamed Premier Colin Barnett, saying his constant interfering and meddling caused the project to be lost. Barnett has opposed offshore processing and has intervened in the decision of the onshore site which is unviable, McGowan claimed.

Woodside also announced it will immediately engage with the Browse joint venture to recommend evaluation of other development concepts to commercialise the Browse resources. Woodside would consider floating technologies, a pipeline to existing LNG facilities in the Pilbara or a smaller onshore option at the proposed Browse LNG precinct near James Price Point, a statement said.

Coleman said the company supports floating technology, but this will need to be determined by the joint venture. Woodside’s partner like Shell Australia, for example, supports the onshore floating technology.

A photo showing an alternative technology for the project. (Photo: Golarabooloo- Lurujarri Heritage Trail)

“Floating LNG can bring significant long-term, sustainable jobs to Western Australia, Australia, and the Kimberley, as well as providing employment and business opportunities for Kimberley indigenous people,” Shell spokesperson Ann Pickard said in a statement. She added Shell would work closely with the Browse joint venture and government to keep the Browse project on track.

Premier Barnett laments the failure to develop a gas hub project at James Price Point is a “tragedy and a missed opportunity.”

Greens celebrate death of Barnett’s gas hub

The Wilderness Society said the gas fiasco should serve as a warning to governments and businesses not to go ahead with any project without a social licence forcing communities to accept unwanted and unsustainable developments. He notes Barnett’s failure also proves that WA can not be trusted with environmental assessments.

Traditional owners and local communities march in Freemantle. (Photo: Save the Kimberley)

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said, “Woodside and its joint-venture partners have avoided possibly the biggest environmental battle in Australia’s history by walking away from Barnett’s folly at James Price Point.”

In January this year, Woodside started bulldozing ancestral burial sites in Walmadan, an act that enraged indigenous communities. “Hundreds if not thousands of people were prepared to stop Woodside from working in the sand dune area at Walmadan, which has great cultural significance to the Traditional Owners,” Schneiders said.

Schneiders, in a statement, also calls for Barnett to end this “appalling project” for good and asks him for a time to heal the pain of the indigenous people in WA. He said,

This development was opposed by people all around Australia and the world, but nowhere stronger than by the brave Broome community who stood up to hundreds of police alongside the Traditional Custodians who wanted to treasure their cultural heritage.

The Wilderness Society still wants answers on why a compromised Western Australian Environment Protection Authority was allowed to approve the project when there were so many flaws in the environmental and social impact assessment.

An aerial view of the LNG site/ (Photo:AAP/Mike Gray/Environs Kimberley)

Victory, but the fight is not yet over

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the battle to save the Kimberley has come to define a new generation of Australian environmental activists, many of whom have taken the opportunity to visit the Kimberley, get the red dirt on their feet, and will now feel personally connected to it for life.

The ACF also notes how rallies and festivals brought the Kimberley to the nation’s capital cities where hundreds of thousands of exceptional Australians have collectively said: ‘No, the Kimberley is too precious to lose.’ It adds the project lost its social license long ago and with Woodside’s announcement, it has now lost its economic licence.

Former Greens Senator Bob Brown joins in a Freemantle rally to oppose the planned gas hub. (Photo: Save the Kimberley)

While Woodside is exploring other alternative options to salvage what remains in the project, the AFC warns the battle is not yet over. ”Put simply, this means that the industrialisation of James Price Point and west Kimberley remain a possibility,” it said, concluding:

We will continue to update you on what this means, but for today at least take a moment to feel proud that because of Australia’s standing strong for the Kimberley ancient songlines, dinosaur footprints, monsoon thickets, bilby colonies and the world’s largest humpback whale nursery remain protected from a gas hub.

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Kimberley’s sacred sites destroyed for a large-scale gas venture

Western Australia is one of the last remaining frontiers of the Indigenous Australians. Series of land grabs pushed them to this territory. But now, even their ancestral graveyards have to go.

Western Australian Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier approved Woodside Petroleum to start bulldozing Aboriginal heritage sites, including the sand dunes area at James Price Point, in order to give way to a $30-40 billion  LNG project. Below the sand dunes are the remains and fossils of Aboriginal ancestors.

The company stopped working in sand dunes last year pending application of a clearance under the Heritage Act. The clearance would allow holders to work at sites registered by local Aboriginal people. The lack of earlier approvals underpinned protesters’ claims the project is illegal.

The State Government fancies this sacred land to emerge as the “Saudi Arabia of Gas,” the world’s largest gas hub. And this could be the ultimate act of Aboriginal dispossession.

Tracks on James Price Point (Photo: Kimberley Media)

James Price Point, originally named Walmadany, is located at the apex of the Lurujarri Heritage trail, the sacred place where several of the revered Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr men and women were buried, including the highly respected traditional custodian Walmadany.

Woodside claims a Native Title Agreement was executed on 30 June 2011 to enable the establishment of the Browse LNG Precinct near James Price Point, 60 km north of Broome. The Indigenous people, however, said the agreement was based on fraud.

When the Colin Barnett Government approved the multi-billion gas project, the Traditional Owner Taskforce (TOTF) was not consulted. The TOTF drew on the best practices in traditional governance and decision-making structures. It incorporates procedures in contemporary meeting, decision-making and information transfer practices to “create a unique, culturally appropriate, consistent and comprehensive consultation and engagement process.” (p.41)

Protests continue to oppose the gas hub. (Photo: nationalunitygovernment.org)

The principle of Indigenous Free Prior Informed Consent (IFPIC) was ignored. It also reinforces the decision of West Australian Supreme Court Chief Justice Martin that the process of compulsorily acquiring land from Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr traditional owners was unlawful.

The Wilderness Society said allowing Woodside to start work in the sand dunes at James Price Point is like sanctioning the bulldozing of St George’s Cathedral in Perth or St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and all of the grave sites associated with these religious institutions.

The Society joins the Traditional Custodians in condemning the approval of Woodside’s request to enter and destroy thousands of years of Indigenous Heritage in the area to pursue its proposed gas processing complex.

Wilderness Society WA Campaign Manager Peter Robertson said,

This approval by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs yet again demonstrates the willingness of the WA Government to put unnecessary and unwanted development ahead of the people of the region and the values of the community. We call on the other Browse joint-venture partners to make it clear whether they support the destruction of these ancient burial grounds.

He added it is worth noting that the proponent for the James Price Point gas processing complex is Premier Colin Barnett in his role as Minister for State Development, and that Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier is also the Minister for Energy.

Heritage trail in Broome, WA (Photo: Kimberley Media)

The Society further accused the Government of  incompetence and multiple conflicts of interest in pursuing the project from its botched attempts at compulsory acquisition through to the environmental approval process and now the approval for Woodside to destroy sand dunes of the highest cultural and religious significance.

James Price Point is one of the fiercest battlegrounds between the Indigenous people and the Australian Government in contemporary times. With the support of the local communities, Green and civic groups, the Indigenous people are fighting to protect the “Law Below the Top Soil” – the law handed down from many generations to another that governs their ancestral rights.

Barricades, clashes between police and civilians, and arrests are expected to continue in the course of the project.

“I can feel the pain coming through this ground. This country is screaming from hurt.” –Albert Wiggan’s powerful monologue from OLD COUNTRY NEW COUNTRY on Woodside Energy’s proposed gas plant at James Price Point.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

Gas firm to finance West Australia’s new “Dubai”

Western Australia (WA) is set to defy all oppositions to chase its dream to turn Broome into a key tourist destination– including a court’s injunction order to stop gas giant, Woodside Petroleum, from drilling at a site in James Price Point. With Woodside offering big bucks to finance WA’s tourism promos, the State Government could not back down.

The North West Australian Tourism was more pleased to announce its intention to receive the $180,000 offered by Woodside to strategically position Broome as a major attraction that will enable WA to compete with other destinations Australia-wide.

The announcement sealed the fate of Broome, ignoring pleas from environmentalists, local residents, and indigenous land owners who have staged protests and demonstrations day in and day out against the proposed gas hub. Oppositions said gas is going to destroy the ecological, historical, cultural value of Broome.

The Australian Greens warned no one wants the project except Woodside and the Premiere Colin Barnett. The party also claimed Woodside’s partners were initially reluctant to the gas venture but have been “forced” to join in by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

And who wants this hub? No one other than Woodside and the Government. Not the general public, not the local community, not the Aboriginal community, not the environment movement, not even Woodside’s business partners.

Woodside Petroleum has joint venture partners Shell, Chevron, BHP and BP in the project who are reluctant to go to the Kimberley but have been forced into it by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

Broome residents said Woodside have purchased the souls of the locals with its money masquerading as charitable work.

Australia’s  North West Tourism welcomes the fund offer which will significantly help to promote Broome tourism amid a “tough domestic market, the WA newspaper reported adding that Chairman Chris Ellison believes the funding will help boost the image of Pilbara and Kimberley.

As the peak tourism marketing body for the Pilbara and the Kimberley, our members look to us to deliver a strong and engaging message to consumers about the positive tourism aspects of our region.

This additional funding will enable us to better tell the unique story of Broome, as the major tourism gateway to the region, and why it continues to be one of the best holiday destinations in Australia.

Police has become ubiquitous in James Price Point to suppress oppositions. The WA Government, however, said the police presence is aimed at maintaining peace.

Lyndon Schneiders, nationl director of The Wilderness Society wrote to The Australian saying. “the mini army has been assembled on the doorstep of the Kimberley wilderness for one purpose — to suppress the widespread opposition of the Broome community to the construction of the proposed $40 billion James Price Point industrial precinct.”

All this to move away and silence a dogged and growing band of locals who have stood in the way of the plans of a consortium of the world’s biggest companies, including Shell, Chevron, Woodside, BP and BHP Billiton, to build this massive gas plant in a beautiful and sensitive part of the remote Dampier Peninsula.

WA police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan admitted the police squad is costing Broome’s taxpayers $100,000 per day.

While the saga of Broome goes on, Woodside also awaits today the decision by the Perth’s Court of Appeal whether its drilling works at the contentious Browse gas project is legal or not.

A traditional owner and senior member of the indigenous Goolarabooloo people, Richard Hunter, has alleged the approval granted to Woodside in February was invalid because the Kimberley Joint Development Assessment Panel did not wait to receive an official report from the Shire of Broome.

Hunter applied for an injunction in the said court to stop major earthworks and geotechnical activities of the project. The company is also ordered to not do work in the beach or dune area.

Read related article here.

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Kimberly gas hub sparks nationwide protests

The dream of Western Australia to transform Broome into a dazzling New Dubai faces no paved road. The multi-billion Woodside Petroleum’s gas hub has ignited intermittent tensions between local residents and the police.

Premiere Barnett dispatches police to support Woodside, Shell, Chevron, BP, BHP-Billiton, Mitsubishi and Matsui on the road to James Price Point. (Photo: Damian Kelly)

The State Government dispatched a strong 140-200 police to James Price Point this week alerting  Green activists nationwide to join forces with Broome residents in opposing the $40 billion gas deal. Local residents say the sight of police presence has become too scary. Others call it a State Government’s “bullying”.

Whether there is a government-business collusion in return for a huge kickback, it is yet to be known. One thing is evident though– West Australian Premier Colin Barnett denied he ordered the police dispatch. He said it was the “operational decision” made by Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan.

Protest camp spokeswoman Vivienne O’Shea describes it as “unnecessary” adding that it the State Government is “spending such a colossal amount of taxpayer money to basically frighten the Broome community.”

Broome residents are against gas on Mothers’ Day (Photo:Glen Klatovsky)

Wilderness Society Kimberley campaign manager Glen Klatovsky said it was a waste of police resources and taxpayer money to send police “to crush the Broome community” which had already been traumatised by last year’s heavy-handed use of police and Woodside’s own private security force.

Today, Tasmania has also joined the action. Led by the Huon Valley Environmental Center and The Last Stand, a vigil at Pier 1 of Macquarie Wharf, Salamanca from 5 pm was held as a gesture of support to Broome residents. Video on Kimberly is likewise featured.

In a press release, Jenny Weber, a spokesperson of the HVEC said Tasmania is joining other citizens from other cities across the nation including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, to support the people of Broome in their fight to protect one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Ula Majewski of The Last Stand also said, “Tonight, the people of southern Tasmania will be standing strong in spirit with this inspiring community in the far north west of the country. We are demonstrating our absolute support for these outstanding citizens who are taking a stand for the Kimberley, one of our most ecologically and spiritually significant landscapes.”

One of the idyllic beaches of Kimberly (Photo:ACF)

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the Kimberley is too precious to lose with its rich mineral deposits along with its historical and cultural value.

ACF believes the proposed location of the Browse Basin gas hub at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula will have a significant environmental impact. The peninsula’s western intertidal zone has been included under National Heritage in recognition of its extensive dinosaur trackways, but it remains in threat by the development of the gas hub.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent