Garrett fails Victoria on desalination plant approval

Peak environment groups Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Environment Victoria have today joined local residents in condemning the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s conditional approval of the desalination plant in Victoria.

MEDIA RELEASE

Friends of the Earth
Environment Victoria

Friday 20 March, 2009

Garrett fails Victoria on desalination plant approval


Peak environment groups Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Environment Victoria have today joined local residents in condemning the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s conditional approval of the desalination plant in Victoria.

Cam Walker, FoE’s campaigns coordinator, said the project would not meet Victoria's long-term water needs and that other more viable alternatives, such as better use of stormwater and recycled water, were far cheaper and less environmentally damaging.

“While we appreciate that under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, Minister Garrett only has limited scope to consider the impacts of this plant, we believe that his assessment is flawed because it is based on information provided by the project's proponent rather than independent studies,” he said.  

“In addition, the relevant provisions in the EPBC Act relate to wetlands of international significance and listed threatened species and communities. This means it cannot consider the full impacts on affected species if they are not federally listed.

“In particular there are serious concerns about the impacts on marine life posed by the plant, including to whale populations, which are not addressed in the Minister’s decision.”

Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria’s campaigns director, said without the Federal ALP moving forward on its pre-election promise to introduce a greenhouse trigger for the EPBC Act, the significant greenhouse implications of the desalination plant cannot be addressed.

“While the Brumby Government has promised to offset the desal plant’s energy use through purchase of renewable energy, this commitment is far from bullet-proof, particularly as the project comes under financial pressure,” he said.

“We are not yet convinced that the plant will be 100% powered by renewable energy. The state government continues to use ambiguous language around this commitment despite the fact that tighter language has been suggested by Environment Victoria.

“We urge the state government to return to a more sustainable water policy, one which is based on meeting our current and future water needs through viable alternatives such as improving water efficiency and accelerating rainwater harvesting and water recycling.”

Water Security, Healthy Rivers: Environment Victoria’s Vision for Melbourne, outlines 10 key actions that could turn Melbourne into a ‘water sensitive city’ that lives within its means. The report can be downloaded from Environment Victoria’s website: http://www.envict.org.au/file/file/Water_Secuirty_Healthy_Rivers_LOWRES....

For interview contact: Cam Walker on 0419 338 047 or Mark Wakeham on 0439 700 501.

For further information contact: Sacha Myers on 0417 017 844.