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June 19, 2020

Why we need to save Westernport Bay from AGL. - image of a mangrove tree standing alone in the middle of a very smooth and flat, silver-blue bay with a blue-gry sky in the background

If you live on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, you’ve probably seen signs around town and bumper stickers that say, “Save Westernport!” or “No AGL!” So, what’s it all about? Let us break it down for you.

What’s the situation?

As you might know, AGL is a gas and electricity company. The issue is that AGL has proposed to build a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) at Crib Point, which would pose all kinds of threats to our precious local environment — including our birds, marine life and pristine bay.

What’s an FSRU?

An FSRU is a 300-metre long and 45-metre wide ship-like structure. This structure would sit permanently in the bay and convert liquified natural gas (LNG) back into gas — a process that involves heating the LNG by sucking in 450 million litres of seawater (that’s 180 Olympic-sized swimming pools), chlorinating it and releasing it back into the bay at a whopping seven degrees cooler than it was before. The gas would then be transported to Pakenham via a 60-kilometre pipeline.

Why we need to save Westernport Bay from AGL. Image of several mangrove trees stationed in the sea in the background and a rocky foreshore in the foreground

What’s the problem?

There’s no telling what kind of havoc would be wrought on the delicate marine ecosystems of Westernport Bay — a UNESCO-designated biosphere — by a temperature and chemical shift like that. The project would mean clearing large amounts of environmentally-significant bushland that houses native animals, including Ramsar-listed wetlands that provide habitat for countless migratory birds. In fact, AGL already began quietly clearing hectares of local bushland at the proposed FSRU site in Crib Point in February this year.

Other risks involve the dredging of the bay floor required to allow up to 40 enormous gas tanker ships to enter the bay each year, which carries the possibility of marine strikes against whales and other creatures; potential chemical and petrol spills or leaks; noise and light pollution; and foreign marine pests hitching a ride into the bay via these foreign ships, which could seriously devastate our local ecosystem (marine biologists think this is how the lion fish ended up invading and destroying Caribbean coral reefs, for example). Fishing, sailing, surfing and swimming in the bay would never be the same.

And on a broader scale, the destruction of mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses spells trouble for climate change. These varieties of plant life help sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen at a much higher rate than forests, and yet marine ecosystems are being destroyed much faster than forests. When we remove these plants from the environment, we’re not only reducing our ability to reduce carbon — we’re unlocking and releasing carbon in the process.

Why we need to save Westernport Bay from AGL. An image of a sunset containing pink and blue in the background, and in the foreground a beach with wooden posts suggesting an old pier leading out to sea

What’s AGL’s deal?

A quick glance at AGL’s website might give the impression that the company is interested in sustainable and renewable energy sources, but the gas we’re talking about is a pretty dirty gas that comes from fracking in Queensland and overseas, which poisons land and waterways. The project itself also involves burning a heap of fossil fuels. In a nuthsell, none of it is very clean. At all. And to top it off, AGL has repeatedly been fined over the last 20 years for misdeameanours and for misleading the public.

What can we do?

It’s not too late to do something. We saw the power of collective action when we got together to Fight for the Bight — and we can change the course of history here, too.

You can start by supporting local groups such as Save Westernport and Environment Victoria.

Write a submission in response to the AGL Environment Effects Statement (EES) here.

Read up on how to write a good submission with this awesome resource from Environment Victoria here.

Submissions are due August 26th ~ every one helps!

Check out @savewesternport for more info on other ways to help.  

Let’s do it for the animals that can’t protect themselves, for future generations and for our beloved bay.