WA environment groups welcome change to Appeals Committee for the North West Shelf Project Extension

Conservation Council of WA

WA environment groups have responded to the reported removal of former Chevron employee, Simon McKirdy, from the Appeals Committee for Australia’s biggest climate decision, the North West Shelf Project Extension, the largest part of Woodside’s Burrup Hub mega-project, due to a perceived conflict of interest.

Mr McKirdy was appointed to the two-person committee last month by WA’s Environment Minister, Reece Whitby, having reportedly previously worked for Chevron from 2013 to 2016. McKirdy reportedly currently works for Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute, which was co-founded by Chevron.

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby announced this morning that he had revoked Professor McKirdy’s appointment to the Appeals Committee following legal advice from the WA State Solicitor’s Office.

Chevron is an equal one-sixth foundation participant in the North West Shelf Project, and stands to benefit directly from the proposed extension.

The Appeals Committee is to prepare a final report and recommendations to the Environment Minister on the record 776 appeals against the North West Shelf Project extension.

Ed Schuller, former Executive Director of Regulatory Services within the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) was recently appointed as the acting Appeals Convenor, but recused himself from this specific investigation due to his previous role at DWER. This gave rise to the need for a special, Minister-appointed, appeals committee.

Jess Beckerling, the Executive Director of the Conservation Council of WA, said:

“The North West Shelf project is seeking to extend Woodside’s Burrup Hub until 2070, which would make it the biggest new fossil fuel project in the southern hemisphere. The disastrous potential of this proposal has already drawn a record setting 776 appeals against it by the WA public.

“The North West Shelf Project extension is Australia’s biggest climate decision and will emit nearly nine-times Australia’s annual carbon emissions. The project’s devastating climate and cultural impacts have garnered massive public interest and the people of WA are rightly concerned about the integrity of this process. There is huge public interest in this appeal and good process is vital given the long term consequences of any decision.

“With all due respect to Professor McKirdy, we are pleased the Minister is taking steps to avoid real or perceived conflict of interest. It is critical that the massive carbon emissions as well as the cultural and environmental impacts are fully considered. This means that the North West Shelf project must be rejected.”

Martin Pritchard, Campaigns Director of Environs Kimberley, said:

“We have seen with Woodside’s James Price Point proposal how the mishandling of conflicts of interest on the EPA’s Board can derail a project entirely and make the approval unlawful and invalid through a court case.

“It’s critical that a decision that would have globally significant carbon pollution as well as potentially drive demand for fracking in our pristine Kimberley region, is free from any perception of bias.”

/Public Release.