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WA EPA backtracks on emissions guidelines

Two weeks ago, the independent organisation released a new directive to the WA government contending that any new or expansion project in the state that emits more than 100,000 t per year of carbon dioxide should fully offset its emissions.

If enforced, the guidelines would have affected several in development large-scale LNG projects, including Woodside’s Browse and Scarborough developments.

Industry figures were quick to criticise the guidelines, with Woodside Chief Operating Officer Meg O’Neill calling the EPA’s directive “out of touch”, saying it was threatening jobs and investment in LNG projects.

Then, after meeting with WA Premier Mark McGowan and LNG industry figures, EPA Chair Dr Tom Hatton reneged on the guidance, saying more discussion with stakeholders was needed.

“It is clear from our consultation there is some uncertainty within industry on the technical aspects and the practical implementation of the guidelines, particularly with respect to offsets,” he said.

“The EPA will be undertaking further consultation with industry and stakeholders to ensure these guidelines can be practically implemented and that they are fully complementary to Commonwealth regulation.

“The EPA is withdrawing the revised guidelines from application, until those consultations with industry and stakeholders are more fully complete.”

The move was welcomed by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), with outgoing APPEA CEO Malcolm Roberts saying all stakeholders needed to be consulted in what was a complex debate.

“We must achieve a policy framework that meets environmental objectives but also considers the social and economic impacts,” he said.

“Our industry has a big role to play in achieving that balance.

“The oil and gas industry takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously.”

Woodside CEO Peter Coleman also applauded the decision, saying energy policies in Australia needed to be clear and stable.

“We welcome the EPA’s decision to withdraw its guideline and consult but regret the instability of the past week,” he said.

“The McGowan Government deserves credit for acting quickly but Australia can’t afford to keep shooting itself in the foot.

“Climate change is an important and complex issue that requires stable, clear, national policies that allow business to invest in playing its part in emissions reduction.

“Targets and policies should be set by elected governments, not regulators – all the states should take note of this episode in WA.”

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