Urgent memo: vote down new gas pipeline Act

Urgent Memo to NT Parliamentary Sitting Members: Don’t support rushed approval on new NEGI pipeline Act legislation

The new and rushed gas pipeline legislation being pushed through NT Parliament by the Giles Government must be voted down today. Territorians must be consulted about any final approvals of the pipeline proposal or new laws to facilitate it steamrolling ahead without time for consideration.

There is no environmental or economic case to justify the NEGI pipeline. The NT Government NEGI pipeline is a high risk project on both environmental and economic grounds.

Today’s no confidence motion is further evidence the Government lacks a mandate to lock in fracked gas infrastructure without appropriate public consultation and project assessment.

Approval of the NEGI will drive a fracked gas industry in the NT:

Approval of the NEGI pipeline cannot be de-coupled from approval for a dangerous fracked gas industry to proceed against the wishes of a majority of Territorians from urban, regional and remote communities.

In their first public media statement as the successful bidder for the pipeline, Jemena Managing Director Paul Adams said the pipeline would be a “catalyst to fast track development of the NT’s gasfields” and acknowledged that after a few short years unconventional gas supplies in the NT would be insufficient to justify the pipeline without bringing new unconventional gas reserves online.[1]

Further assessments are needed:

The approvals for the project are only in their earliest stages, with the Terms of Reference for the EIS not even having finished being out for public consultation. These stages should be completed before we make a new Act through Parliament.

The Federal Government has already “called-in” the project in under Federal Environment laws as posing a risk to Nationally Listed threatened species. It is unclear that this project will receive environmental approvals.[2]

A feasibility study should be undertaken to address significant financial risks associated with the project for the Northern Territory. See below.

Gas demand is falling, not rising: 

There is no East Coast gas crisis. Gas demand is falling on the East Coast and will be oversupplied in Asian markets, negating the need for more expensively produced Territory shale gas and the NEGI. Gas demand on the east coast is declining in response to high prices brought on by the recent commencement of exports to the world market.

In April 2015, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released updated gas projections that show that demand is falling and which confirmed that there are no gas supply shortfalls on the East Coast. [3]

The NEGI is a major financial risk for the Territory:

Further, highly regarded international financial analysts Wood MacKenzie are also stating clearly this pipeline could be an expensive and risky white elephant, in their report last week titled Risks remain for the NEGI.

Wood MacKenzie released information stating, “The North Eastern Gas Interconnector is no certainty to make financial decision at the end of 2016″ and said they “have revealed a litany of issues with the proposed pipeline.”[4]

Further, claims the NEGI will reduce household gas prices are false. Australian domestic gas markets are now linked to world prices. Any production facilitated by the NEGI would have a minimal impact on world supply and therefore on Australian domestic gas prices.

The NEGI legislation does not provide protection for waterways impacted by its route:

Section 7 of the North East Gas Interconnector Pipeline (Special Provisions) Bill 2015 (the Bill) gives the Water Minister (as defined) broad authority to issue a written approval for the construction and operation of the Pipeline across a waterway.

This provision obviates the need for Pipeline work which goes across an environmental assessment under the NT environmental assessment regime.  Environmental assessment procedures would only be triggered if the Pipelines activities across a waterway would trigger the Commonwealth assessment regime by having a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

The Bill does state that a condition applies to the approval that the project participant must not:

  1. i) prevent, restrict or interfere with the passage of vessels on the waterway; or
  2. ii) divert or use water in the waterway; or

iii) obstruct the flow of water in the waterway.

However, this condition is subject to an important caveat, namely, that the instrument of approval can provide for the above things to occur.

The Bill does not give any guidance on what the Water Minister must consider before issuing a permit and gives the Minister far too broader discretion and very little accountability over what should be a matter of environmental significance, particularly in such an arid region of the Territory.

These issues cannot be rushed through by a government with no mandate and the impacts of unconventional gas development spurred by the NEGI must be fully considered by members of parliament , not pushed through in a legislative rush job that will lock Territory communities and landholders into decades of invasive gasfield industrialisation.

We need to wait until we have a Territory-wide discussion about this pipeline and it’s plan to ‘fast track gasfields’. Territorians want to be consulted about this pipeline and it’s relationship to onshore shale gas fracking, not find out we’ve pushed through a new law in the final days of Parliament.

No mandate for fracked gas infrastructure:

Debate on this Act must be postponed until a feasibility study and environmental assessments are concluded.

This year over 700 submissions were received by the Northern Territory EPA objecting to the pipeline proposal, citing it as a driver of fracked gas development which risks our water, impinges on landholder rights and a negative economic impact on other industries like farming and pastoralism and a strong driver of climate change.

 

 

[1] https://jemena.com.au/about/newsroom/media-release/2015/jemena-to-build-north-east-gas-interconnector

[2] Federal Government’s decision to make the pipeline project a ‘controlled action’: http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/1484991b-0781-e511-ac3a-005056ba00a7/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1448592852830

[3] Australian Energy Market Operator (2015) Gas Statement of Opportunities for Eastern and South-Eastern Australia.

[4]  Wood MacKenzie report in Energy News http://tinyurl.com/zrya7zk