Heavy Rains bring new concerns for NT pipeline

Recent floods and continuing rainfall in Tennant Creek and the Barkly region bring new concerns with regard to the imminent approval and construction of the Northern Gas Pipeline.

The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has written to Federal and Territory ministers this week urging an on-ground threatened species survey to be undertaken before approval of the project is considered to ensure the project will not significantly impact on any listed species which may be present now but was not during the previous survey period.

Arid and semi-arid ecosystems across Australia operate under boom and bust cycles associated with rainfall. Flooding and heavy rainfall events lead to germination of plants, explosions of insects, mammals, birds and reptiles.

The recent and continuing rainfall will have increased the activity and likely presence of threatened and vulnerable flora and fauna in the both the project area and its immediate surroundings. This is particularly true for riparian and ephremeral wetlands which will be displaying an abundance of life that was not recorded during the project assessment period. 

Another serious concern is the recent removal of the weather radar from Tennant Creek in 2015. This has had implications for residents both in Tennant Creek and surrounding communities who had no warning of the flood event that hit the town on January 10.

ALEC has serious concerns that the lack of radar in Tennant Creek makes it difficult for the construction company to adequately assess rainfall and climatic conditions that could cause both unsafe working conditions and unacceptable environmental impacts. ALEC recommends that the Northern Territory Government work with the Bureau of Metereology to reinstate the radar service for Tennant Creek and the Barkly prior to any approval for landclearing or construction activities. 

“The Arid Lands Environment Centre is staunchly opposed to the proposed Jemena Northern Gas Pipeline (NGP) due to its enabling effects on the Northern Territory onshore gas industry and impacts on climate change, “ said Jimmy Cocking, Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre.

 “Territorians have resoundingly said no to unconventional gas fields and fracking, and there are no assurances from the NT Government that the Northern Gas Pipeline will not be assisting in opening up the Territory to fracking,” said Mr Cocking.

“If we are to have any chance of meeting climate change reduction targets we must be quickly transitioning to renewable energy. 80% of known fossil fuels must remain in the ground, and we must be abandoning new fossil fuel infrastructure. ALEC wants to see the NT Government’s Roadmap to Renewables released before the approval of the construction of the pipeline so that we can be assured the pipeline is not compromising the transition to renewables and in the NT meeting it’s carbon reduction targets.”

  

Arid Lands Environment Centre – No Fracking Pipeline Statement

For 36 years ALEC has worked both on the ground and on government policy to ensure good environmental outcomes for the long-term benefit of Territorians. ALEC is opposed to the proposed Jemena Northern Gas Pipeline for the following reasons:

1. No new fossil fuel projects or infrastructure 

  • Globally if we are to have a chance of combating climate change 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. This means no new fossil fuel projects or infrastructure, and abandoning some existing projects.
  • All around the world communities are mobilising against new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure including the Dakota Access Pipeline in America, the Canadian Tar Sands, Amu Power Coal Mine in Kenya and the Adani Carmichael Coal mine here in Australia. Communities are demanding action on climate change for a safe future.
  • Natural gas produces less carbon dioxide per unit energy than coal does, making it appear at first glance as a cleaner fuel. But natural gas is predominantly composed of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and when leaks at drilling fields and pipelines are included it is considered as polluting as coal. 

2. Don't Frack the NT

  • Territorians want fracking banned in the NT over concerns of groundwater contamination, industrialisation of the landscape and climate change. The NT Labor Government came to power promising a moratorium on fracking and another inquiry. While this is proceeding the gas industry continues to explore.
  • 85% of the Northern Territory is under application for exploration for petroleum and gas.
  • NT Indigenous communities and pastoralists are under pressure to sign on to support gas exploration. Once the license is granted there is no opportunity to stop invasive gas fields from developing.
  • Despite assertions that the pipeline is being built to transport an over supply of conventional gas owned by Power Water Corporation to Incitec Pivot in Mount Isa, the stated justification for the Jemena pipeline is to "stimulate the development of the Northern Territory through increased gas exploration and production". This means unconventional gas fields and fracked gas. 
  • Traditional owners and pastoralists have not been told how the Northern Gas Pipeline could facilitate widespread fracking and industrialised gas fields across the NT. Many traditional owners and pastoralists are against fracking and support for the pipeline is not unanimous.

3. Pipeline is a bad deal for the NT

  • The Northern Gas Pipeline has been described by industry commentators as the "whitest of white elephants". This is because it's being proposed in a time when global liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets are in a glut and the NT gas will be too expensive for the domestic market.
  • Despite the price of the excess gas being sold to Incitec Pivot (QLD) being protected by commercial in-confidence, commentators anticipate it is at a bargain basement price which undermines returns for the Territory.
  • The Northern Gas Pipeline will charge the highest tariffs in Australia for the transport of gas. Jemena is owned by the Chinese and Singaporean governments (via State Grid Corp of China (60%) and Singapore Power (40%) so the profits go overseas.
  • The pipeline will be built with a largely FIFO workforce with less than ten permanent jobs created.
  • The pipeline was a deal made under the previous Giles CLP Government who spent millions of tax-payer dollars promoting the shale gas industry. The Gunner Government would be better to refer this project to an Independent Commission Against Corruption Inquiry rather than allowing it to proceed.

4. Renewable Energy Future

  • Solar power has now become the cheapest form of new electricity generation and renewables are entering an era of undercutting the price of fossil fuel generated electricity.
  • Building fossil fuel infrastructure offsets investment in renewable energy. New fossil fuel infrastructure will become stranded assets in a world that is moving to renewable energy.
  • Governments must abandon polluting fossil fuel projects and transition to renewable energy immediately to meet climate change targets.
  • The NT Gunner Government has a 50% renewable energy target by 2030. This is going to require a rapid scaling of investment in infrastructure to support renewable energy generation, storage and distribution.

References:

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/life-after-oil/why-we-need-to-keep-80-percent-of-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground-20160215 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/27/fracking-digging-drilling-paris-agreement-fossil-fuels

http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy/northern-territory-gas-pipeline-a-white-elephant-report-20160518-goya2b.html 

http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Pipe-Dream-A-Financial-Analysis-of-the-NEGI-MAY-2016.pdf

http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/world-gas-market-faces-glut-says-iea

http://www.michaelwest.com.au/as-power-bills-swell-so-do-the-fortunes-of-power-companies-and-billionaires/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/world-energy-hits-a-turning-point-solar-that-s-cheaper-than-wind

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