Federal agency slammed over 'polluting' project in WA's Kimberley

Argyle river , Hidden valley ,Mirima national park South of  Kununurra, East Kimberley region of Western Australia. 22nd of April 2008 The Age Picture by JOE ARMAO SPECIAL WA
Argyle river , Hidden valley ,Mirima national park South of Kununurra, East Kimberley region of Western Australia. 22nd of April 2008 The Age Picture by JOE ARMAO SPECIAL WA

Environmental groups have lashed out at a federal agency for spruiking a "polluting, dangerous and unpopular" energy project in WA's picturesque Kimberley region, a move which could see the Commonwealth at odds with the state government.

Regional Development Australia Kimberley expressed its support for a fracking project in its monthly newsletter - despite the State Government's temporary ban on all fracking exploration.

RDA Kimberley chair Graeme Campbell signalled the agency's tentative support for the Mitsubishi Energy and pipeline company DBG's project in the organisation's Tuesday newsletter.

"RDA Kimberley is excited to be involved with a game-changing concept which will benefit stakeholders who have already listed their support, and also has the potential to create new development opportunities for future industries in the Kimberley," he wrote.

Mr Campbell listed the benefits the gas pipeline would bring to the region including supporting a higher demand of power, cost-effective delivery of gas and shifting road train traffic from the Kimberley's major highways.

"The role of the RDA Kimberley is to kick-start discussions not only with the stakeholders but with the broader community, to seek feedback and to coordinate a collaboration of many bodies to champion this exciting regional prospect."

The RDA's support for the pipeline project comes despite the McGowan government's state-wide moratorium on fracking while the Environmental Protection Authority completes an inquiry into the controversial practice.

Conservation Council of Western Australia chairman Piers Verstegen said the newsletter's promotion of the project showed a disregard for the moratorium and the state government.

"It is totally inappropriate for a Commonwealth agency to be promoting fracking projects at a time when the state government has responded to environmental and community concerns by placing a moratorium on fracking across the state," he said.

"The Commonwealth has no place in promoting the development of polluting, dangerous, and unpopular energy sources in the Kimberley or anywhere else in Western Australia, especially when those proposals run directly against state government policy and the clear mandate on this issue gained at the recent election."

Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston said the federal government's apparent support for the project was "irrelevant".

"Nothing has changed, there will be no fracking during the moratorium and scientific inquiry," he said.

"The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety does not have any current applications for fracking for this project or an application for the pipeline.

"The federal government doesn't have anything to do with approving or regulating pipelines on-shore in WA, so what is said by some federal committee is irrelevant."

According to a Buru Energy corporate presentation from earlier this year, the original focus of the pipeline was to bring gas to remote Kimberley towns including Broome, Fitzroy, Derby and Halls Creek.

Under state environmental laws, it is understood this "local focus" would make the project an acceptable development for the Kimberley region.

However, reports have previously signalled WA companies could send gas to the east coast as a part of "expansion plans" once the pipeline is constructed.

Mr Verstegen said the RDA's promotion of the pipeline was potentially pre-empting the EPA's decision on the practice and undermined the Kimberley community's apparent opposition to fracking in the region.

"This project will be strongly opposed by community and conservation groups and presents a very high risk for investors," he said.

"The Kimberley is an area of globally significant heritage, cultural, and tourism values - not a place for industrial gasfields that would pollute the water and risk the health of communities.

"The Kimberley has recently been through a period of conflict over gas developments at James Price Point, which was a disaster for investors and caused deep divisions in the local community.

"This fracking project is likely to result in the same outcome, with divided communities and disappointed investors."

This story Federal agency slammed over 'polluting' project in WA's Kimberley first appeared on WA Today.