Western Australia’s environmental watchdog has refused to assess a proposal by Buru Energy to bulldoze more than 1000kms of savanna woodland in the Kimberley so the company can conduct more geological surveys for gas.
The Environmental Protection Authority announced this week that Buru’s “Rafael” land clearing proposal would not need to be assessed under the state’s Environment Protection Act.
Buru has already cleared more than 15,000kms of grid lines through native vegetation in the Kimberley for “seismic testing”.
In a mid-February corporate update, Buru identifies options for commercialisation of gas from its planned Rafael project, such as:
Used in a yet-to-be built petrochemical plant in the Kimberley
Exported using a yet-to-be-built floating gas terminal off the Kimberley coast
Exported via the North West Shelf
Used for other mining operations in the Pilbara
All these options would require the construction of a high pressure gas pipeline that would industrialise the Kimberley’s landscape, along with access roads, gas wells, and compressor stations.
Lock the Gate Alliance WA Coordinator Claire McKinnon said the EPA’s decision not to assess the seismic testing highlighted serious failings with environmental law in the state, especially concerning native vegetation destruction.
“It seems Buru Energy can clear enough Kimberley tropical savanna, the largest, most intact on the planet, to nearly cover a round the world bulldozer trip, without a proper environmental assessment. This is a really disappointing decision and will scar the landscape for decades,” she said.
“The EPA needs to take a cumulative approach to assessing these applications, rather than a piece by piece approach, which doesn’t consider the full impacts of destructive native vegetation clearing.
“The McGowan Government was very happy to send out media statements celebrating the end of logging in the South West, but in the meantime appears content to let fracking companies lay waste to the Kimberley’s world renowned tropical savanna without even the most basic of environmental assessments.
“The Kimberley’s woodlands are part of the largest intact tropical savanna in the world, and are critical habitat for threatened species including the Greater Bilby and Gouldian Finch. The proposed clearing is also close to the National Heritage listed Martuwarra Fitzroy River.
“We are now reviewing the option of appealing this decision by the EPA.”