Consultation on EPA policy will shine a brighter light on WA gas pollution

The Western Australian EPA recently published new greenhouse gas guidelines

Following the release of the policy, Western Australians saw a sustained series of full page advertisements paid for by the fossil fuel industry accompanied by front page headlines in the state’s daily tabloid newspaper. After meeting with a group of LNG industry executives, a week after the policy was released, the Premier announced that the EPA was withdrawing their policy for further consultation. The consultation process is expected to begin in the next few months.

The EPA’s updated greenhouse gas guidelines required fossil fuel companies to state how they would avoid, reduce or offset their ‘direct’ (or production) emissions to achieve zero net emissions for their projects in Western Australia. The policy stopped short of requiring offsets for all WA Liquefied Natural Gas pollution and did not prevent future expansion of the oil and gas industry altogether as climate scientists have called for.

The role of the EPA policy is to guide how industry proposals will be assessed by the EPA in the future but have no immediate effect on existing businesses. The EPA guidelines are not government policy and do not require government approval, however they do shape the advice that the EPA will provide on individual projects in the future. The government must have regard to this advice but is not bound to follow it.

The chairman of the EPA, Dr Tom Hatton has remained resolute stating that whilst all stakeholders would be consulted, the EPA has a legal and moral authority to ensure WA emissions and Australia’s carbon budget, are on track to meet the Paris agreement.

Clean State campaign director Ms Kate Kelly agrees saying that “the withdrawal is now a signal to us that we must make sure our government knows that we need a ‘zero net emissions’ approach.”

“The Clean State campaign will work to ensure the community has a voice as part of this consultation and is engaged fully as part of the process.”

“It is obvious to all that fossil fuel companies command too much power in this state” said Ms Kelly.

“They pay little tax and no royalties however they have the ready cash to try to improve their reputation by placing their branding all over our sports stadiums and arts events whilst they cook the planet. Just like tobacco companies in the past, it’s time to rein in their influence on our state.”

“The tide is turning, and our polling shows the great majority of people want action on climate change. We want investment in renewable energy solutions and a carbon positive economy that brings new, sustainable jobs. We know that the policy proposed by the EPA is a very reasonable approach to reducing pollution and brings significant opportunities for the Western Australian community.”

The Environmental Protection Authority’s new greenhouse gas policy was welcomed by a diverse cross section of civic groups including Unions, Church Groups, academic advocacy groups such as the Environmental Defenders Office (WA’s only public interest legal firm), the Beeliar Group, many scientists and peak bodies such as The Wilderness Society and the Urban Bushland Council.

Ms Kelly said that “whilst this is a great step forward it is important to note that only a modest percentage of the entire emissions burden would have been regulated by the policy. As such it will only cost the proponents around 2% of their operating profits.”

Clean State looks forward to working with the community and the EPA on the consultation process, to ensure better outcomes for Western Australians.