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    Posted: March 08 2019 at 2:39pm
WA Premier Mark McGowan attacks EPA guidelines aimed at cutting carbon emissions
By Elicia Kennedy, David Weber and Rhiannon Shine
Updated yesterday at 2:51pm

An LNG flare flames out from a stack.
PHOTO: The guidelines target proposals with emissions over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. (Reuters)
WA Premier Mark McGowan has attacked the state's environmental watchdog for going too far with its new guidelines aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Key points:
The EPA says WA is lagging behind the country in greenhouse gas reduction
It wants certain new or expanded projects to fully offset their emissions
The Premier said the new guidelines would hinder investment in the state
The EPA announced on Thursday that new and expanding mining and oil and gas projects would face much stricter scrutiny around their emissions.

In addition to having to devise ways of avoiding or reducing emissions, proposals with emissions over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide would also be required to offset those emissions.

The requirement would potentially eat into the profits of the projects affected in a bid to tackle the state's emissions output.

EPA chairman Tom Hatton said while the Federal Government was the regulator of emissions, it was not doing enough for Australia to meet its targets under the Paris agreement.

"Our emissions in this state have gone up significantly," Dr Hatton said.

"There is no political motivation for these guidelines. They come strictly from considerations to protect the West Australian environment."

WA's greenhouse gas emissions rose 27 per cent between 2000 and 2016, with the state the only Australian jurisdiction to see a substantial increase.

According to the EPA, future resource proposals, particularly LNG projects, risked further increasing the state's emissions "by a large margin to 2030".

Premier won't endorse policy
But Mr McGowan distanced himself from the agency today, making it clear the new guidelines were not State Government policy.

The Premier said if the proposed changes were adopted, they could affect future investment in the state.

"We are not endorsing what they have done," Mr McGowan told ABC Radio Perth.

"I am concerned that the EPA has gone a bit far here … but I do acknowledge their point that there needs to be a national solution to this issue.

"We will work with individual projects about offsetting opportunities."

A tight head and shoulders shot of WA Premier Mark McGowan speaking wearing a black suit, white shirt and red tie.
PHOTO: Premier Mark McGowan says the Government will not endorse the guidelines. (ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)
Mr McGowan said major investors had already raised their concerns about the viability of future projects under the new guidelines.

"We have had some feedback from some of the major investors that it could impact future projects, and of course I have to create jobs and that is my number one priority," Mr McGowan said.

"We need to work with them to make sure we get through this issue."

Mr McGowan said tackling climate change required national leadership.

"So you have a consistent approach across Australia and a consistent approach across projects," he said.

"To just apply this to LNG projects means of course the massive coal exporters in Queensland and NSW get off scot-free whilst the LNG projects, which produce half the emissions of coal from Queensland or NSW, are penalised."

An overhead view of an LNG tanker off the WA coast with a helicopter hovering above its helipad.
PHOTO: The EPA says future LNG projects could increase WA's emissions "by a large margin". (Supplied: Woodside Energy)
Mining industry warns of economic damage
WA's Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) agreed, warning the guidelines could damage the economy.

The chamber's chief executive, Paul Everingham, said WA stood to lose billions of dollars.

"The message it sends is one of risk for potential investors," he said.

"If potential investors think this is something that's likely to happen either now or in the future it will definitely negatively impact on whether they invest in WA or not."

An opportunity to create jobs: Conservationists
But Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said the new policy was an opportunity for the WA Government to create jobs in other areas.

"What that potentially will do is drive a great deal of investment into new industries here in WA to reduce and offset carbon pollution," Mr Verstegen said.

"We are talking about industries like carbon farming, tree planting, restoring our natural enviroment, but also renewable energy and clean technologies."

A bearded man sits on a wooden bench with a backdrop of lush vegetation.
PHOTO: Piers Verstegen says there's been a failure of carbon policy at state and federal levels. (ABC News: Elicia Kennedy)
Mr Verstegen said he hoped the EPA's new stance would pressure the Federal Government to enact a national approach to tackling climate change.

"To date we have seen a failure of carbon policy at a state level and at a federal level," he said.

"As a consequence we have seen some of Australia's largest polluting industries locating here in WA without any controls at all on their carbon pollution."

Woodside attacks 'red tape gone mad'
Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman said there had been no direct consultation with the company over the guidelines, which sought to bring emissions targets forward by 30 years.

"If you have a look at the guidelines themselves, they're actually unachievable," he said.

"We don't actually know how we're going to meet them today is the issue we have, and that's why we're having … this reaction to it.

"Of course we want to be part of the solution to climate, and we're already investing heavily in that. But the reality is we sit here today and we don't have a solution and of course this is just bureaucratic red tape gone mad for us."

Mr Coleman said the Pluto and Browse projects were most at risk from such a policy.

Woodside's Pluto LNG project in the Pilbara lit up with lights at dusk.
PHOTO: Woodside says its Pluto LNG project in the Pilbara would be hurt by the proposed changes. (Supplied: Woodside Energy Ltd)
"It actually has the potential to prevent us getting a product into the global market that will actually halve the greenhouse gas footprint of coal," he said.

We're kind of perplexed with this at the moment, I'd say in many ways, quite angry about it."

Mr Coleman said the EPA brought the CME and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association into discussions, but the industry bodies were sworn to secrecy.

"The largest players in town were never consulted about it. We're the ones generating jobs and the EPA in their own little cosy huddle that sit out there on St Georges Terrace have decided that this is something that they're going to change the world, but it's just ridiculous," he said.

He said he believed the Government had still not finalised its position on the matter and he called on the Premier to give the industry absolute certainty as quickly as possible.

"I'd be looking for the Premier to lead his party to get finalisation on what their policy actually is because at the moment, I'm sitting in a policy vacuum wanting to spend billions of dollars in this state and I don't know what the rules are."

Policy to put 'fear of God' into workers
Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price said the EPA's guidelines would "put the fear of God into regional Western Australia".

"This will put fear into all those people who are gas workers, all the people who work in iron ore, the people who rely upon the mining industry for their living," she said.

"Ultimately there could be job losses. These types of policies are job-destroying policies."

She said the Federal Government had a clear climate change policy to bring down Australia's emissions by 26 per cent by 2030.

Work begins on waste-to-energy facility
The fallout from the EPA's new guidelines came as construction started on a thermal waste-to-energy facility, which Mr McGowan said would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

An artist's impression of a thermal waste-to-energy facility to be built in Kwinana.
PHOTO: The thermal waste-to-energy plant will create jobs and cut emissions, the Premier says. (Supplied: Phoenix Energy)
The Kwinana facility will thermally treat waste and convert the recovered energy into steam to produce electricity.

The project, Australia's first waste-to-energy plant, will divert 400,000 tonnes of waste from land fill each year and export enough electricity to power more than 50,000 households.

Mr McGowan said 800 jobs would be created during construction, with the plant becoming operational in 2021.

"It creates jobs for local workers, reduces landfill and generates energy that can be used to power our homes," he said.
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