March 7, 2019 / 12:05 PM / 3 months ago

West Australian environment authority pushes for carbon emissions offset

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Western Australia’s environment authority wants big fossil fuel projects to offset their carbon emissions to help curb global warming, a proposal resource companies said could deter investment in the gas-rich state.

The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) said new projects which generate more than 100,000 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide would be required to buy credits to offset that in order to pass the authority’s assessment process.

“This guidance will apply to all new proposals and changes to proposals, including those currently under assessment,” the EPA said in a policy document published on its website.

Its guidance is not binding but EPA assessments are considered by the state government when approving major projects. The state government said it was weighing the new EPA position and would respond after considering industry and environmental views.

Western Australia (WA) is a major fossil-fuel resource hub with five large gas projects: Woodside Petroleum’s Pluto LNG, the North West Shelf joint venture which it also operates, Chevron Corp’s Gorgon and Wheatstone plants and Royal Dutch Shell’s Prelude platform.

Planned expansion at Gorgon and Woodside’s planned multibillion-dollar Scarborough and Browse developments would be affected by the new guidelines, if they were enforced by the government, and industry players pushed back.

“Not only will this proposal put at risk new jobs, investment and domestic gas supplies, it positions WA at a competitive disadvantage in the global LNG marketplace,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said in a statement.

“The state government should reject this approach.”

The head of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA, Paul Everingham, told the Australian Financial Review newspaper that the guidelines could prevent some projects proceeding, though he did not list any likely cancellations.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat from the sun inside the earth’s atmosphere. Scientists say the burning of fossil fuels, releasing such gases, lifts temperatures and is causing more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

At the 2015 Paris climate conference, countries pledged to work to limit the rise to 2C, a step that will require a radical reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

“Over the past two decades the EPA has recommended greenhouse gas abatement measures for around 40 proposals, however, more needs to be done to limit global warming, consistent with the Paris Agreement,” Tom Hatton, chairman of the Western Australia EPA, said.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Susan Fenton

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