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Chevron runs roughshod over Australian Aboriginals at Wheatstone project

Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on December 1st, 2011

Chevron broke ground on its massive and environmentally destructive Wheatstone natural gas plant in Western Australia today, triggering a boycott of the official ceremony by the Australian Aboriginal community for the company's disregard for their interests. Read the story from the West Australian.

When I visited Onslow two years ago, I was shocked by the run-down, dusty, disheveled condition of the town that had experienced previous oil company booms and busts. No economic prosperity in sight, but lots of falling-down oil company signs and clumps of oil on the beach.

Peter Klinger, The West Australian December 1, 2011, 6:27 am

Today's ceremony near Onslow to mark the start of construction of the Chevron-led $29 billion Wheatstone LNG project threatens to be overshadowed by a rift between the US giant and traditional owners.
As of last night, disgruntled elders of the Thalanyji people, who hold Native Title rights for the area around Onslow, were threatening to boycott this morning's ceremony at the Wheatstone location, Ashburton North industrial precinct.
It would rob the ceremony, which will be attended by senior executives from project partners Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Apache and Kufpec as well as Premier Colin Barnett, of a traditional welcome to country, which has become a feature of ground-breaking and milestone ceremonies to recognise the importance of traditional owners.
Unlike Woodside Petroleum, Chevron has said little about its dealings with traditional owners other than to flag this year that a wide-ranging access and compensation package had been agreed with the Thalanyji.
Chevron and partners approved Wheatstone's development two months ago.
Despite agreement on appropriate compensation, it is understood the latest row between Chevron and the Thalanyji revolves around a request for the oil and gas giant to fund and build a Keeping Place for cultural materials, as well as a clash over the invitation list for today's first-sod turning ceremony.
Some elders were invited but others apparently not, leading to a decision by the Thalanyji leadership to not attend at all unless grievances with Chevron could be resolved by this morning.
A Chevron spokesman said it was "disappointed and regrets" that Thalanyji elders were planning not to attend.

Video from Australia: Peaceful protestors defend the Kimberley from Big Oil

Posted by Teri Shore on June 15th, 2011

Follow the Kimberley actions on Hands Off Country.

Kimberley protesters block road to controversial gas hub site

Posted by Teri Shore on June 8th, 2011

Photo: An environmental protestor waves an Aboriginal flag atop a camel next to a grader that has been blockaded from reaching James Price Point. (ABC Local: Ben Collins)

Protesters have blockaded the road to a controversial gas hub site in Western Australia's Kimberley.

About 25 people gathered on a dirt track north of Broome to stop Woodside contractors from accessing the site at James Price Point.

They set up banners early this morning and one protester called Shaun chained himself to a bulldozer.

He agreed to free himself in exchange for seeing a document giving Woodside permission to clear the land.

Another man has since chained himself to the bulldozer and protester Dave Mann says they are holding their ground.

"We don't want to see them do their business so we're here to make it difficult for them," he said.

Inspector Geoff Stewart says while the police respect the protesters' right to have their say, it is illegal to block traffic.

"Certainly people can't impede the vehicles, even by standing or by vehicles, and we're just negotiating with them to move," he said.

A convoy, including the bulldozer, several cars and a truck, was prevented from accessing the site.

Organiser Will Thomas says even though the police will try to move them on, the protesters will not let the Woodside convoy through today.

The blockades come as the Australian Heritage Council officially recommends 20 million hectares of the West Kimberley be declared a national heritage site.

In its final report to the Government, the Australian Heritage Council has expanded the recommended boundary to include the gas hub site.

The Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson says the new report contradicts the State Government's claims that the area is not significant.

"The Government's proposal pretty much dismissed the significance of the dinosaur footprints, especially in the James Price Point area," he said.

"This report and these recommendations contradict that dismissive appraisal and it will definitely force the federal minister to focus his mind much more clearly on the significance of that coastal environment."

Mr Robertson says the inclusion of the site will create problems for supporters of the development.

"It will certainly make it more difficult for the federal government to approve it and it will also make it more difficult for the joint venture partners like Woodside to argue what they are doing is environmentally responsible," he said.

In a statement, Woodside said the site was preferred over others because the WA Environmental Protection Authority recommended that heritage and environment issues at James Price Point could be managed.

It also said that any sites of heritage value at the precinct will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the environmental and heritage approvals the project requires to proceed.

Tags: environment, conservation, wa, broome-6725

First posted Tue Jun 7, 2011 12:30pm AEST

Save the Kimberley "No Gas" Rally a Success

Posted by Teri Shore, Program Director on May 12th, 2010

This blog post appeared on the Save Kimberley website:

Hundreds of Kimberley residents let their voices be heard in a colourful community rally in Broome in Northwest Australia this past Saturday. The battle cry “Gas Free Kimberley! Save our community!” was heard from the town oval all the way to the Civic Centre as the energetic group marched with signs, banners, and even juggling clubs and wildlife creations. A near life-size construction of a humpback whale led the way.

Former shire councilor, Chris Maher emceed the event, which included presentations by Kerry Marvell, from Save the Kimberley, Martin Pritchard from Environs Kimberley, Arnhem Hunter, and local traditional owners Neil McKenzie and Joseph Roe. Musicians Kerrianne Cox, Wil Thomas, Harry Jakamarra, Clint “Westwood” and Steve Pigram inspired the crowd after speeches were made. The message was loud and clear that it’s time for locals to stand up and be heard; the future health of our unique home of Broome and the surrounding region is at stake.

As the Hands Off Country blog summarises, the advice to locals was as follows – “The speakers … urged us to stay strong; to write to the Prime Minister; make this an election issue; beware the social consequences; understand what’s happened in the Pilbara; a wise warning about the drug issues ‘without speed the Burrup would never have been built’; to be informed; to ask questions; understand what real Indigenous employment means; keep looking after country. The message was loud and clear, no one here wants gas in the Kimberley.”

Read more: http://savethekimberley.com/blog/?p=564

Mysteries of the Kimberley's flatbacks studied at EcoBeach

Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on February 28th, 2010

Two years ago in 2008 Conservation Volunteers Australia began to study the Australian flatback sea turtles that nest at EcoBeach, south of Broome on Roebuck Bay in the Kimberley. For the first time ever, staff and volunteers patrolled the beach during the peak nesting season for 40 nights in November and December. Volunteers trained and guided by CVA marine species manager Glenn McFarlane and his staff -- who are approved and permitted by the Western Australian government -- walked the 12 kilometers of beach from Jack's Creek to the new EcoBeach Resort night after night looking for flatbacks.

Over the past two years numerous nesting females were tagged for the first time and DNA taken to determine their lineage. And  in 2009/10 satellite transmitters were attached to two turtles, both named Lucy, but that's another story. Where they go and what the DNA testing finds will shed light on the mystery of these Kimberley flatbacks that has never been known before.

While this uniquely Australian sea turtle has been nesting here for millenia, they were perhaps simply forgotten by the public and the world because it wasn't that remarkable. People had seen sea turtles nesting at Eco Beach, 80-mile beach to the south and the famous Cable Beach at Broome for as long as anyone could remember. It wasn't surprising or unusual to see a flatback or other sea turtle come up to nest or a clutch of hatchlings clamoring by when down at the beach to watch a sunset or campout.

So until now, there has been no long-term study to determine the status of this flatback population - or any in the Kimberley for that matter. CVA has stepped in thanks to the expertise and passion of Glenn who has spent years working with leatherbacks in Costa Rica. His leadership has also helped establish citizen science projects at Cable Beach and 80 Mile Beach to get estimates of these well-known, yet little understood marine turtles.

 I was fortunate to be traveling in Broome when Glenn and his team went back to EcoBeach in February to exhume nests and assess success rates. Unearthing data loggers tracking sand temperatures was another primary task. So for three very hot, though blessedly windy, days we dug up nests, counted eggs and recorded our findings. The hard-working team dug by day and relaxed at night as guests of the EcoBeach Resort. One night we even had the privilege of swimming in the lavish pool that overlooks the beach and ocean.

Sadly, we found that many nests had been washed away. A full report on the season will be released by CVA in the near future. But what I learned from my days with Glenn, Jo and Kerry was that this was important ground-breaking work that will provide new science on the Kimberley flatbacks that will help protect them for the long-term.

Another reason I was there was to see the EcoBeach Retreat, an amazing low-profile accomodation and complex built (and rebuilt due to cyclones) by eco-businessman Karl  Plunkett of Australia Eco Constructions. On a point of red rock above RoeBuck Bay and an incredible expanse of white sand and blue water, Karl has constructed an eco-vision with a touch of luxury. Humble, yet comfortable, brown two-to-four person safari-type canvass tents with room to stand(which have been ordered and shipped around the world)  sit among the dunes and native grasses. More luxurious eco-villas with air conditioning are positioned on the rises with ocean views. Solar panels provide much of the electricity supplemented with low-emissions diesel generators. Being a skeptic about just about anything that's called "eco" now-adays, I was impressed with the overall commitment to green-ness by the EcoBeach Resort. I was also encouraged by the company's support and commitment to sea turtle protection.

The combination of sea turtle protection and comfort is just too good for an activist and traveler like me to pass up. So watch for details of an STRP-CVA sea turtle monitoring volunteer trip in December 2010 during the peak of flatback season!

New TV ad depicts Kimberley region of Australia threatened by Big Oil including Chevron

Posted by on January 29th, 2010

Watch the new TV ad depicting the red rock and blue ocean that will be polluted and irriversibly harmed by Big Oil projects getting fast tracked by the government and corporations.

Oil and gas corporations want to build a huge industrial complex on the Kimberley coast near Broome - with reef blasting and dredging impacting on crucial habitat for dugong, turtles, and thousands of Humpback Whales who use the Kimberley coast as a nursery.

Photo by Rod Hartvigsen, Murranji Photography, http://www.murranji.com.au/

Chevron gas project a disaster for sea turtles in Australia

Posted by Teri Shore, Program Director on September 14th, 2009

Chevron's Gorgon project in Northwestern Australia south of Port Hedland is a disaster for sea turtles which nest on Barrow Island. The project was approved by the Australian government despite opposition from environmental groups and its own environmental advisors.

Since Chevron has taken over the existing oil drilling rigs on Barrow Island, environmental protection has gone downhill, according to people who have worked there. Australian flatback sea turtles nest on the remote island and forage and breed in the surrounding waters. This rare sea turtle nests only in Australia and is protected by the government. Yet that has not stopped the Western Australia government's new premiere Colin Barrett, a conservative, from giving it the green light.

The project is also dependent on very questionable carbon sequestration technology, where the excess CO2 from natural gas production will be pumped under the island instead of released into the atmosphere. This approach has never been proven to be safe or environmentally sound.

 Up the coast in the Kimberley, fossil fuel giants want to build even more dirty plants for natural gas processing that would destroy a relatively intact eco-system. Chevron and the other oil barons need to pull back. See more at www.seaturtles.org and http://www.savethekimberley.com/

Sea Turtle Restoration Project • PO Box 370 • Forest Knolls, CA 94933, USA
Phone: +1 415 663 8590 • Fax: +1 415 663 9534 • info@seaturtles.org
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