NT Chief Minister challenged on claims that Middle Arm is ‘clean energy investment’

October 25, 2023
A snip of NT Chief Minister's community newsletter supporting Middle Arm as 'clean energy investment'. Photo: supplied

The Australia Institute (TAI) hosted a Politics in the Pub discussion in Darwin on October 24, titled “Gas. The Facts”, where Mark Ogge busted the myths of the so-called green credentials of the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct project.

Northern Territory Labor wants to build the 1500 hectare gas processing facility. Tamboran Resources has obtained a stake to process the gas it plans to frack from the Beetaloo Basin.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said in her community newsletter, distributed in October, that the project is “a clean-energy investment” that would include a “world-class carbon capture and storage facility” and is “underpinned by extensive environmental studies and regulations”.

Ogge said carbon capture and storage technology “has repeatedly failed over decades” in attempts to store carbon underground. However, it has been “incredibly successful” in gaining approval for big gas projects that “would otherwise be unacceptable”.

Ogge also took aim at the supposed economic benefits of big fossil fuel projects, which are typically spruiked as job creators.

“Big projects like this crowd out jobs and economic activity in other industries,” Ogge said. “The gas industry doesn’t train up people to work in this industry. They want skilled workers very quickly. The gas industry is a net zero job creator”.

The NT government claims it will roll out solar and hydrogen industries at Middle Arm.

But Ogge said there is little point rolling out renewable industries as part of a project primarily designed to expand fossil fuels.

“The NT is one of the biggest petrostates in the world. We can roll out as much renewable energy as we like, but if we keep approving these gas mega projects then we are playing a very big role in destroying the world’s climate.”

The Petroni report, commissioned by the Environment Centre Northern Territory (ECNT), estimated the state’s emissions could rise by 75% if Middle Arm goes ahead.

Climate modelling suggests that, without drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the number of days over 35°C each year in Darwin will rise dramatically to 132 days a year by 2030, 187 days a year by 2050 and 275 days a year by 2070.

Dr Louise Woodward, an NT-based paediatrician, said: “Populations living close to gas wells have higher rates of still birth, pregnancy complications and congenital abnormalities. Our hospital system is already heaving. We cannot cope with any more disease.”

Middle Arm will also be a petrochemical processing facility.

Petroni modelled the air pollution risks and found that the industrial cancer hazard in Darwin and Palmerston could rise four-fold.

International research has shown that populations living within 5 kilometres of such facilities face a 30% higher risk of developing leukemia and other cancers.

The proposed development is just 3 kilometres from Palmerston City.

“The research found it didn’t matter how good the regulations were,” Woodward said. “The risk of cancer remained the same, despite the better technology and regulations over time.

“Our people are being sacrificed for the sake of multinational corporate profits.”

A United Nations Special Rapporteur report on toxics and human rights described the NT as a “climate change sacrifice zone”.

Woodward travelled to Canberra with other health professionals to raise the alarm about fossil fuel expansion in the NT. Their efforts were instrumental in securing the Senate inquiry into Middle Arm.

The No New Gas Coalition, which has vowed to stop the development, is letterboxing the community in response to Fyles’ misinformation, and holds stalls at the Palmerston and Nightcliff markets.

[Submissions to the Senate Inquiry into Middle Arm close on October 31. The Environment Centre NT has provided a submission writing guide. Email No new gas to get involved.]

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