Green groups hit out at port gas deal
GEELONGPORT has agreed a deal with Viva Energy to build a gas import terminal just days after opposing the project in a public submissions hearing.
The move prompted immediate backlash from climate groups opposing the terminal, who accused the port manager of “betraying” the Geelong community.
Under the deal announced last week, GeelongPort would build an extension to the Viva Refinery’s pier and allow the energy company to build infrastructure including a gas pipeline and treatment facility.
Viva stated the deal reflected “an important step in approval and development of the Viva Energy Gas Terminal and provides a clear pathway to the construction and delivery of the necessary infrastructure underpinning the project”.
GeelongPort had been among the strongest opponents in the month-long environmental impacts inquiry into the plan, which ends this week.
It presented evidence over three days to a hearings committee, where it argued Viva’s planning failed to adequately consider risk or involve other stakeholders.
But the deal announced seven days after GeelongPort gave its evidence would allow Viva to proceed if it won state government approval.
“As an ACCC-regulated open access port, GeelongPort has a binding, legal obligation to provide current and future port users access to its facilities on non-discriminatory and reasonable terms,” a GeelongPort spokesperson said.
“The commencement of construction remains subject to satisfaction of certain conditions, including Viva Energy taking a final investment decision with respect to the project and the Minister for Planning’s assessment… that the project will have acceptable environment outcomes enabling it to proceed.”
GeelongPort declined to respond to questions about the financial terms of the agreement and how the deal affects the port’s $100 million Geelong Hydrogen Hub project, which earlier this year it claimed could not proceed if Viva’s terminal went ahead.
Green group Geelong Renewables Not Gas took aim at the port manager in the wake of the deal.
“This is a betrayal of the Geelong community,” spokesperson Darcy Dunn said.
“GeelongPort had serious safety and environmental concerns about the proposed gas import terminal, but instead of defending the community’s interests they struck a deal with Viva to make revenue off the project.
“The deal only relates to leasing the pier infrastructure and doesn’t reduce the safety or environmental risks they’ve previously raised.
“They’ve simply sold out the community and walked away from the public hearings.”
Norlane community representative Simon Reeves said locals had grave safety concerns regarding the gas terminal.
The energy company’s chief Scott Wyatt said it looked forward to “working with the Port to complete this important new piece of Victoria’s energy infrastructure”, should it earn approval.
The terminal’s public hearing is due to close tomorrow (Friday, August 5) before an Inquiry and Advisory Committee provides its final advice to the state government on whether to allow the project to proceed.