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Environment Agency Rejects Gorgon Natural Gas Project

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Jun 08, 2006
Western Australia's environment agency on Tuesday rejected plans to develop a massive natural gas field off the country's northwest coast, fearing the project could threaten a rare species of turtle.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) said the 11 billion dollar (8.2 billion US) Gorgon liquified natural gas project was unacceptable, largely because of the risk to the Flatback turtle.

State and federal environment ministers will now consider the recommendation and Chevron Corp. the project's operator, said it expected a final decision later this year.

Gorgon is one of seven big gas projects being considered for development by the Western Australian government.

The proposal by Chevron and its partners ExxonMobil Corp and the Royal Dutch Shell group involves a 10 million tonne per year liquefied natural gas plant and a domestic gas plant on Barrow Island, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) off the northwest coat.

But the ecology of the island is senstitive and it is classed as a nature reserve.

EPA chairman Wally Cox said the site of the proposed plant on Barrow Island was close to two important nesting beaches for the turtles and the proposal did not meet the authority's "environmental objectives."

Chevron said it was confident the proposed project would maintain "the appropriate balance between environmental management and development on Barrow Island" and the venture partners would continue to participate in the environmental assessment process.

About three-quarters of Gorgon's expected output, worth over 66 billion dollars over 20 years, has been provisionally sold, primarily to Japanese energy utilities.

The environment authority first rejected the proposal in September 2003 but the Western Australian government overrode the recommendation and allowed restricted access to the island.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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