March 14, 2019 / 8:09 AM / 10 days ago

Western Australia environment regulator backtracks on carbon offset need

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Western Australia’s environmental watchdog said on Thursday that it would withdraw guidelines issued last week that would have required big projects to offset their carbon emissions to help curb global warming.

FILE PHOTO: The Woodside Petroleum gas plant is seen at sunset in Burrup, in the Pilbarra region of Western Australia, April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/File Photo/File Photo

The state Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had said last week that big new projects, including fertilizer and power plants as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG) export sites, would be required to buy credits to offset their emissions to pass the authority’s assessment process.

The rules would have applied to projects that generated more than 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The guidance was not binding, but the EPA’s assessments are considered by the state government when approving major projects.

The authority said on Thursday, however, that it would consult further with industry and stakeholders to ensure its guidelines comply with the law and could be practically met.

“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,” it said in a statement.

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

The guidance was to apply to all new proposals and changes to proposals, including those currently under assessment, the EPA had said.

“We welcome the EPA’s decision to withdraw its Guideline and consult, but regret the instability of the past week,” Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said in a statement on Thursday.

“Australia can’t afford to keep shooting itself in the foot. Governments and regulators need to act to give us confidence to invest ... Now we will go through a proper process of consultation so we can make investment decisions we need to take,” he said.

Western Australia is the country’s biggest producer of LNG with five large plants: the North West Shelf and Pluto LNG, both run by Woodside Petroleum, Chevron Corp’s Gorgon and Wheatstone plants, and Royal Dutch Shell’s floating Prelude platform.

Planned expansions at Chevron’s Gorgon and Woodside’s planned multibillion-dollar Scarborough and Browse developments would have been affected by the new guidelines if enforced by the government.

Reporting by Melanie Burton and Sonali Paul; Editing by Tom Hogue

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