Chevron’s Worst Year Ever, Episode 4: Australia

posted by Rainforest Action Network

This has been one of the worst years ever for Chevron. From it’s ongoing massive legal losses in Ecuador, to offshore disasters in Brazil and Nigeria, to the tragic deaths of its employees in several locations, including right here in California.

This is the fourth in a series of statements we’re posting as we prepare for a week of what is sure to be inspired 99% Spring protest against Chevron’s irresponsible and destructive business practices (read the first statement, by Kazakhstan’s Sergey Solanyik, here; the second, by Ecuador’s Luz Trinidad Andrea Cusangua, here; and the third, by Communities for a Better Environment about Richmond, CA, here).

These statements are by people from around the world (and from right here in the Bay Area) letting us know what it really means to live in the communities where Chevron operates. Many will travel to San Ramon, CA to bring their calls for justice directly to the company’s executives, board members, and shareholders at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30. You can view all of the statements at If you want to join the protest on May 30, RVSP and find details here.

Today’s statement is from Peter Robertson, who works with The Wilderness Society in Australia. Chevron is part of a joint venture that is seeking to exploit the natural gas fields off the Kimberley coast in northwest Australia. The project has so far met fierce opposition from the local Indigenous communities, as well as from environmentalists concerned that the environmental impact assessments so far performed have been grossly inadequate. As Peter explains below, the Kimberley coast is one of the world’s most pristine coastal ecosystems, and should not be sacrificed to fuel the profit drive of companies like Chevron.

ATTENTION: CEO John Watson and the Board of Directors of Chevron

Dear Chevron,

The Kimberley coastal and marine environment in far north-western Australia has been recognised globally as one of the most pristine left on the planet, outside of the polar regions (Halpern et al, 2008).

However, this region is now the focus of major international fossil fuel interest, both offshore and onshore. US giant Chevron is part of a seven-member Joint Venture looking to exploit the massive Browse gas field in the seas off northwestern Australia.

Left: Montara/West Atlas oil rig fire, Timor Sea, northern Australia, 2009. Right: Map of existing and proposed LNG projects, northwest Australia.

As of May 2012, The “Browse LNG Joint Venture” (BJV) is comprised of Chevron (17%), Shell (9%), BP (17%), BHP (9%),
Woodside (33%), and Mitsubishi/Mitsui (15%).

The BJV needs a site to process the methane gas from Browse into LNG for export to Japan and other parts of Asia. In 2008 the Western Australian government, headed by fossil fuel-pusher Premier Colin Barnett, decided, against the wishes of several of the BJV partners, to locate a massive new ‘greenfields’ LNG processing facility at James Price Point near Broome on the Kimberley coast (see map).

Now, after four years of dubious environmental impact assessments, attempted dispossession of Indigenous people, legal challenges, community upheaval, blockades and arrests, the proposal is looking to be on very shaky ground indeed:

  • Woodside Ltd, the project’s lead partner, has sought and received government approval to extend the deadline of the BJV’s ‘Final Investment Decision’ until mid-2013, conveniently after the upcoming State election;
  • The deadline for finalisation of the environmental impact assessment process, being conducted jointly by the State and Federal governments, keeps being pushed back as independent scientists continue to expose inadequacies in the studies done by the WA government and Woodside;
  • Repeated attempts by the WA government to compulsorily acquire the ‘native title’ rights of the Indigenous Traditional Owners of the James Price Point site have so far been unsuccessful;
  • The recent entry of Mitsubishi and Mitsui into the BJV has led several industry analysts to state that it is now even more likely that the Browse gas will be piped to existing LNG facilities further south in the Pilbara region, rather than being processed at a new facility at James Price Point in the Kimberley.

In the latest example of the inept environmental impact assessment, the project proponents have been caught out trying to significantly understate the amount of dredging that will be required to construct a huge new deep water port at James Price Point.

James Price Point; site of proposed LNG processing facility and deep water port; Premier Barnett sends in riot squad to quell local  community protests, July 2011
Left: James Price Point, site of proposed LNG processing facility and deep water port. Right: Premier Barnett sends in riot squad to quell local community protests, July 2011.

The next major events in this long-running saga will be the decisions of the WA and Federal Environment Ministers on whether or not to grant environmental approval to the James Price Point project.

These decisions are now expected in the second half of 2012 and conservation groups are cautiously optimistic that, in light of the gross inadequacy of the environmental reports and studies submitted for assessment, one or both Environment Ministers will reject the project, despite the political ‘heat’ this will create.

Even if the Ministers cave-in to political pressure to approve the project there are many more hurdles in the way of any actual project commencement, including the likelihood of several more legal challenges, as well as further blockades and arrests on site.

So, after years of sustained opposition and protest, the project is still a long way from being a done deal. But the community has not won yet and it is vital that pressure continues to be put on companies like Chevron to ensure this project never goes ahead in this location or anywhere else on the amazing Kimberley coast.

Chevron has long been considered one of the three or four companies that would prefer not to have to spend US$10 Billion extra on building a new gas hub at James Price Point, compared with the cost of piping the gas to its existing coowned LNG facility in the Pilbara region — North West Shelf LNG.

Australian conservation groups, Traditional Owners and local communities call on Chevron to ‘do the right thing’ and reject investment in the destructive and unnecessary LNG plant at James Price Point.

We await your response to our request.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Robertson
State Coordinator
The Wilderness Society (WA)

This post originally appeared on City Brights.