A new gas terminal in Geelong has caused public outrage, with community members taking to the streets to voice their concerns.
Viva Energy has proposed to build a floating gas terminal in Corio Bay to import gas for the south eastern parts of Australia. The energy company plans to extend the refinery pier, treatment facility and add a new pipeline.
This comes after the City of Greater Geelong committed to a net zero economy by 2035 in February this year.
Geelong Renewables Not Gas is a community-driven organisation established in response to Viva’s proposal and is leading the charge against the project.
Spokesperson for the group, Tony Gleeson, says members are concerned for the safety of local residents, environmental damage, climate consequences and impact to the community.
“(Viva) is saying let us continue putting carbon into a super saturated atmosphere and they don’t mention the consequences of that … they never do,” Mr Gleeson said.
A recent rally organised by the group in the Geelong CBD was attended by approximately 80 community members and families, all who are concerned with impacts of the gas terminal. They marched along Moorabool St with signs reading ‘Terminate the Terminal’ and ‘Liquid Fuel Just Ain’t Cool’.
“Being concerned quietly doesn’t count with those who make the big decisions,” Mr Gleeson said.
The group described the project as being oblivious to the current impact of climate change, as Viva will produce half a million tonnes of carbon each year if the project is approved.
“This project seems to exist in a parallel universe where the realities of climate change, economic and community safety don’t seem to apply,” group volunteer Darcy Dunn said at the rally.
Geelong Renewables Not Gas claims that the community is at an energy crossroad and Viva Energy should choose to invest in renewable energy.
“If they are fair dinkum about wanting to be part of a cleaner Geelong, they need to come out of fossil fuels and generate green hydrogen with renewable energy,” Mr Gleeson said.
“It is an industry that is going out, they just need to accept that and pivot.”
Councillor for Brownbill, Sarah Mansfield, shares similar concerns with the local sustainability group.
“Investment in new gas infrastructure is incompatible with the need to rapidly reduce emissions and move to renewable forms of energy in the next decade,” Cr Mansfield said.
Although the project would provide up to 200 new jobs for the region, with 70 jobs being ongoing positions, many say this doesn’t outweigh the environmental and climate impact.
“We could be creating many times more sustainable long term jobs in renewable energy industries … 24,000 local greens jobs could be created if we truly commit to net zero by 2035,” Cr Mansfield said.
A recent report funded by Ironbark Sustainability found that approval of Viva’s plan would continue to escalate the impact and risks of climate change as well as related health and economic consequences.
The report, ‘Viva Energy Gas Import Terminal Emissions Analysis’, stated that the project will increase Viva’s contribution to Geelong emissions from 35 per cent to 52 per cent.
“The Geelong region can seize opportunities by rapidly scaling up renewable energy industrial zones, investing in renewable energy infrastructure and generating cheaper and local energy supply,” the report said.
Viva Energy was contacted for comment but did not a respond. However, the Environmental Effects Statement commissioned by the company said “[the gas terminal] offers significant opportunity to minimise potential environmental effects and utilise the attributes of the industrialised port and refinery setting.”
Community feedback for the Environment Effects Statement by Viva Energy is due to the Victorian government by April 11.