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28 October 2010 Hansard Page: 27064

Tomago Gas Storage Facility

Speakers Cotsis The Hon Sophie; Kelly The Hon Tony
Business Questions Without Notice, QWN

The Hon. SOPHIE COTSIS: My question is addressed to the Minister for Planning. Will the Minister update the House on the planning process for the first gas storage facility proposed for New South Wales?

The Hon. TONY KELLY: I acknowledge that this is the member's inaugural question in this House. It is a really important and interesting question for the people of the Hunter. What a great member she will be.

The New South Wales Government is committed to ensuring a full suite of investment opportunities in gas supply and storage technologies to help secure gas supply for New South Wales.

We are also committed to ensuring that the State gas market remains competitive and supports the New South Wales Greenhouse Plan by providing improved availability of gas as an alternative fuel to coal and diesel.

I have today declared AGL's proposed gas storage facility at Tomago, near Newcastle, to be critical infrastructure under part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 on the basis that it is essential to the State for economic, environmental and social reasons.

The proposed gas storage facility would have the capacity to store approximately 30,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas, with the capacity to supply the New South Wales gas market with up to 120 terajoules per day. It would create up to 300 jobs in the Newcastle area during the construction period and 15 direct jobs once operational, if approved.

The proposed gas storage facility would be a first for New South Wales and would help to meet gas supply and demand shortfalls.

This is important because New South Wales currently relies on gas sources from other States and is vulnerable to gas supply interruptions in those States.

It is also important because the Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that midwinter peak gas demand for the New South Wales-Australian Capital Territory market will exceed supply in 2014.

The benefits of this project to the State, if approved, include: assisting in the provision of a reliable and stable gas supply for new and existing gas-reliant industries and the community of New South Wales;

a reduction in New South Wales's current reliance on interstate gas suppliers and risk to supply interruptions, either along the pipeline or at the source;

helping to provide a competitively priced gas market with improved availability of gas as an alternative fuel;

and facilitating the displacement of older, less efficient power generators with newer, more efficient and less carbon intensive power generating facilities.

The declaration of this project as critical infrastructure ensures that, if approved, it will not be held up by legal challenges, but rather can be constructed in time to meet the rapidly approaching deadline.

The Department of Planning is still required to undertake a thorough and transparent environmental assessment to ensure a sustainable outcome in both the short and long term. The critical infrastructure declaration will also not affect the duration of the public exhibition and participation period nor the requirement to invite and consider public submissions.

The director general's requirements for the environmental assessment have recently been issued to the proponent to prepare the environmental assessment.

The Department of Planning is now awaiting the lodgement of the proponent's environmental assessment prior to this significant infrastructure proposal proceeding to the public exhibition phase of the planning process.


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