Gaslighting Geelong: accusations of betrayal

Viva Energy Gas Terminal Inquiry Hearings

The Viva Energy Gas Terminal Inquiry hearings ended on 5 August 2022 after seven weeks of presentations and submissions by a very long list of groups, experts and local residents about the madness and irresponsibility of planning a new fossil fuel project in 2022. However, GeelongPort suddenly withdrew its objections after signing a contract to extend the Refinery Pier for Viva Energy – a development which highlighted exactly how destructive and cynical the business world’s ‘profit over planet’ regime is.

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GeelongPort betrays community with backflip on Viva gas terminal

Local community groups are outraged that GeelongPort has entered into a commercial agreement with Viva Energy to extend Refinery Pier for a proposed gas import terminal, despite previously raising serious safety and environmental concerns about the project.

Media release – 28 July 2022

Geelong Renewables Not Gas Spokesperson Darcy Dunn said:

“This is a betrayal of the Geelong community. GeelongPort had serious safety and environmental concerns about the proposed gas import terminal, but instead of defending the community’s interests they struck a deal with Viva to make revenue off the project.

“The deal only relates to leasing the pier infrastructure and doesn’t reduce the safety or environmental risks they’ve previously raised. They’ve simply sold out the community and walked away from the public hearings.

“As recently as 19 July, lawyers acting for GeelongPort made a submission to the Viva Energy Viva Energy Gas Terminal Inquiry and Advisory Committee arguing that Viva’s gas terminal proposal should not proceed.

“The GeelongPort submission stated Viva had ‘failed to properly identify and assess a number of significant safety risks’ and ‘failed to properly identify and assess critical navigational and mooring risks and impacts’.

“A few weeks ago, GeelongPort was saying that the list of problems with this project was so long that it shouldn’t go ahead, and now we’re supposed to forget all those risks just because they’ve done a commercial deal with Viva? It’s insulting to the thousands of residents who have homes nearby and will have to live with the consequences.

“Gas remains a polluting fossil fuel and there are better alternatives to building a new gas terminal such as helping households switch to efficient electric appliances, which are cleaner and cheaper to run.”

Norlane resident Simon Reeves said:

“GeelongPort’s deal with Viva doesn’t change any of the safety risks for local residents. On two separate occasions last week the siren at Viva’s Refinery was sounded and emergency services attended to deal with alleged gas leaks. At the same time we are supposed to believe that Viva can properly manage the risks associated with a new gas import terminal.

“Just like Viva keeps community members in the dark about incidents at their sites, Viva’s deal with GeelongPort aims to conceal the significant safety concerns that GeelongPort raised in their expert testimony just one week ago.”

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→ Listen to Inquiry session recordings | Enquiry Committee info | Sign the anti-gashub parliamentary petition


Viva ASX announcement, 27 July 2022:

GeelongPort submission to the Viva Energy Gas Terminal Inquiry and Advisory Committee (tabled document 381), 19 July 2022:

About Geelong Renewables Not Gas

Geelong Renewables Not Gas (GRNG) was formed in response to Viva Energy’s proposal to build a gas terminal in Corio Bay. We are proudly independent, non-partisan and funded by donations from our community. Website: 

→ GreenLeft – 29 September 2022:
Residents opposition to Viva gas import terminal continues

What we learnt at the Viva public hearings

Rai Miralles from Environment Victoria wrote:

Over the past month, I’ve presented and listened in to the Environment Effects Statement (EES) hearings for Viva Energy’s proposed gas terminal in Geelong. 

As the hearings wrapped up earlier this month, one thing was abundantly clear: with the huge community opposition and mounting evidence against their polluting gas plan, Viva has no social licence nor the technical arguments to proceed. 

Thousands of Victorians and more than 150 local groups like Geelong Renewables Not Gas and Geelong Grammar School made submissions and spoke at the hearings. Together, we exposed just how damaging this project would be for our climate, the local marine environment and the safety of the community. 

But throughout the EES, Viva demonstrated a complete failure to listen to the community’s concerns as they push ahead with their polluting proposal. Here’s a summary of what we learnt through the hearings: 
1) Climate pollution from the project could be 12x higher than what Viva has reported  

Viva deliberately excluded the largest single source of climate pollution from the project –  
emissions from transporting LNG in tankers to Geelong. It would import up to 160 petajoules of gas, which would mean up to 600,000 tonnes of climate pollution each year! That’s just from transporting the LNG and operating the terminal – not even counting the emissions when the gas is burned in homes and businesses. 

2) Viva is not interested in reducing transport emissions … because it will reduce profits 

Viva COULD establish contractual regulations to reduce emissions (e.g. by excluding LNG cargos that are coming from far away). But we learnt they are choosing not to do this, to protect the “financial interests” of big gas companies they might work with. 

3) Viva doesn’t know critical information about the environment in Corio Bay 

Without proper mapping of the environment surrounding Viva’s proposal, it is impossible to assess the full impact the project would have on the local environment. This lack of evidence was a key point raised by the EPA. Viva also failed to include peer reviews on important areas like marine hydrology and ecology. These were the two issues where AGL’s Crib Point proposal faced the most problems!  

4) Serious safety concerns have still not been addressed 

As GeelongPort pointed out in their initial submission, Viva simply has not addressed the implications of major accident events for the safety of workers or the impacts of simultaneous operations at the port area. 

5) Viva’s modelling makes the crazy assumption that gas demand will remain the same until 2040 

This is totally unrealistic, and implies the gas industry would do nothing to cut emissions for another 20 years. It goes against climate science that says we need to urgently cut emissions this decade – and also ignores the Victorian government’s own policies to get off gas.  
It’s taken hours of volunteer work and a massive few years for the Geelong community to build the momentum we have today. They’ve held rallies and events in packed town halls, commissioned reports showing there are far more jobs in renewables than gas, released films, blitzed the media and more. 

The EES hearings might be finished, but the fight to stop this giant gas terminal from going ahead is far from over.  

The Inquiry and Advisory Committee is currently considering all the information presented at the hearings and will prepare and submit their report to the Minister of Planning. After this, the Minister normally releases his decision in about 30 days. That means it’s more important than ever we keep speaking up! 

Local group Geelong Renewables Not Gas has launched a new petition, calling on the Victorian Parliament to reject Viva’s proposal. It will soon be tabled in Parliament and the group is aiming to get as many signatures as possible – to show our government the thousands of Victorians who oppose this project. There are only a few weeks left to sign on – will you add your voice? >>
Sign the petition
Right now, we need to be rapidly scaling up investment in clean solar, wind and battery storage. Not building a new gas import terminal that would lock in our dependence on fossil gas for decades to come! 

Let’s keep up the pressure and make sure our government gets the message. 

Rai Miralles
and the team at Environment Victoria